Our History

Our Story

MarketPlace: Handwork of India grew out of a very small-scale venture organized in 1980 to help three low-income women in Mumbai, India. At that time, Pushpika Freitas and Lalita Monteiro founded the Indian nonprofit SHARE and began teaching the women to sew patchwork quilts by hand, work they could do at home without having to pay for childcare or equipment. This small experiment attracted attention from other women in the neighborhood. The slums of Mumbai are full of women who need to support their families but face obstacles, including poor education, cultural barriers, and religious restrictions. By 1983 the number of artisans in the group had grown to over 75.

MarketPlace: Handwork of India was incorporated in Illinois as a nonprofit in 1986. In 1990, we printed and distributed our first catalog of women's apparel and home decor characterized by traditional Indian hand dyeing and hand embroidery. By 1992, the artisans numbered over 120, and the organization was restructured to encompass multiple independent cooperatives. By owning and running their own cooperatives, the artisans can achieve meaningful and sustainable self-sufficiency and empowerment.

Social programs, developed in collaboration with SHARE and the artisans, help the women reach their full potential. Programs for the artisans' children also help them succeed in school and beyond, taking the change into the next generation. Currently, MarketPlace works with over 400 artisans organized into 11 cooperatives.