Meet Deepa, a 37 year old head supervisor for seven centers of Kumaon EarthCraft, a cooperative of artisans. It is part of Women on Wings’ business partner Avani, which is built on the principles of sustainability and local empowerment. It creates contemporary products with traditional skills and natural materials like wool, silk and pashmina. Its range of products includes shawls, stoles, mufflers, home furnishings, in addition to garments for men, women and children. All Avani’s products are hand woven and naturally dyed. Many of the yarns are hand spun.
Making a career
Deepa was happy to talk to the Women on Wings’ team that was working at Avani’s campus on reviewing the social enterprise’s business strategy post the pandemic. Deepa was educated till 8th grade, and she married when she was 17. She has come a long way in her working life even though she is formally not highly educated. At her work, she has learnt supervision, leadership skills and computer skills. In addition, she can do complex analysis for sales. If needed she can also travel to a new location for an exhibition or other business purposes. She has always been ambitious: “When I was young, I wanted to own a stitching center and be an entrepreneur.” Instead, she started working for Avani when she was 17 and she does not regret her decision. “Working at Avani among the people of my own makes me most happy.” Asked about her dreams for now she adds: “I dream of expanding Avani’s business so that more weavers can get employment.”
Happily living at the Avani campus
Deepa lives with her husband and two children at the Avani campus, a community nestled in the Kumaon region of the Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. Living at the campus serves her well. After marriage she and her husband did not have a lot of privacy, they never got the chance to speak privately to each other as the house they lived in was always full of other family members. But when she shifted to the Avani campus she could spend more time with her husband. It has helped her in many ways: even during the COVID-19 pandemic there was sufficient income with the help of Avani.
Job gives confidence and independence
Deepa is very happy as she feels confident, independent, and self-sufficient. She manages the expenses of her house equally with her husband and she feels very proud. She can do a little bit of shopping for herself without explaining much to others. She also saved money to buy gold jewelry. Most importantly she can contribute to her children’s education and future. Deepa really wishes all women this progress: “I have influenced other women in my community to come work for Avani. One of the Avani’s centers is in my village and nearly all the women from that village are now associated with Avani.”