Let's Talk About Respect!May 01, 2019 | By Pushpika Freitas
Let's Talk About Respect...Living Our Values, Changing Lives
R-E-S-P-E-C-T is one of the five values the women artisans have chosen to live by, and they have expanded the concept far beyond the respect for tradition that they learned as children and which often held them back. For both MarketPlace and the artisans, respect is more than an ordinary part of the workplace. MarketPlace respects the artisans' abilities and strengths enough to challenge them to do things beyond what many would dare dream of. In turn, the women take on challenges - and crush them! Their accomplishments include running their own cooperatives, creating embroidery designs, and participating in paralegal training.
Respect embraces their lives fully, beyond the workplace. With the help of educational, self-awareness and social justice programs, the artisans have gained self-assurance and self-respect. Their confidence naturally commands respect from others, and they are able to demand that they, their opinions and decisions matter. The artisans' involvement in social activism on behalf of their community has made them role models and mentors to family and neighbors.
Respect also applies to the origins of the fabrics. From the very beginning we have used block and batik hand printing, Kalamkari and hand-woven ikat, which give MarketPlace items a distinctive look, appeal and status. While respecting these age-old practices, we have also innovated, combining techniques, using non-traditional tools, fresh colors and designs. In this way we respect both the fabric traditions and the artisans themselves, with expanded opportunities and interest in their craft.
Many of India's traditional rules of "respect" restrict women: respect for elders means not expressing her views in front of them; respect for her husband means not earning her own money and not having her own opinions; respect for in-laws means doing exactly what they say. At MarketPlace, we are proud and pleased that the artisans have reclaimed the word "respect" as empowerment to be supported and admired.
Respecting All Religions
In the 17th C. Mumbai was a fishing community consisting of 7 islands. When it came under British rule, they recognized its potential as a valuable deep-sea port and instituted large-scale civil engineering projects to connect the islands. This development brought in people from all over India. Cultural and religious differences resulted in discord, and even violence.
In the slums where the artisans live, people from different religions, castes and regions live side-by-side, but do not really intermingle. Most of the artisans came to Mumbai after marriage, moving from their villages to Mumbai, a strange and large city, without their families and often with little support from their husbands.
In the cooperatives they developed bonds of companionship and understanding where differences in religion and custom are not only tolerated, they are respected. Whatever their faith, all the artisans celebrate the major Hindu festivals of Holi, Navratri and Diwali together; they fast for a day during Ramadan; and they decorate for Christmas. The ties that bind these women are stronger than their differences.
Respect for Education
MarketPlace's programs are based on respect for the artisans and their priorities. In 1999, the artisans established the Armaan Club. Armaan means "wish" and their most fervent wish was to educate their daughters and sons. The club operates as a collaborative effort with leaders from each group planning the activities. The primary goal is to improve the academic performance of their children, but extracurricular activities such as camps, dance, judo and soccer are also prioritized. This approach enriches the kids' lives, fulfilling the wishes of their mothers!