Read Time: 5 min.
Beautiful & Determined Overcomers
Holding the canvas fabric in her hands, Dilshad patiently demonstrates the process of creating a new design to a room filled with uniquely beautiful, determined, and differently-abled women. Dressed in colorful traditional Indian saris and sitting in rows of stitching machines and worktables covered with materials, each woman has her own inspiring story of hope… her own personal story of overcoming extreme challenges to create a new life for herself and her family.
Every Woman’s Unique Story of Hope
One woman is learning to use a sewing machine with one hand after she was burned for a dowry. Another woman was accidentally electrocuted and lost much of the feeling in her hands. Nearby is a young man who is considered “unemployable” by most local employers because of his learning disabilities. But the consistent and repetitive nature of his work has helped him become an accomplished Artisan. He enjoys this opportunity to express his personal creativity and he takes pride in creating his products with excellence.
Like Dilshad, each woman is learning to write a new ending to a tragic story that could have left them destitute. But now Dilshad is teaching them – not only Artisan skills that will help them provide for themselves and their families – but also how to overcome their challenges and become equal partners and active leaders in their communities.
Searching for Hope
Growing up, Dilshad studied until 10th-grade standard. Like many young girls in India, once she discontinued her schooling, her parents arranged her marriage.
“My husband was very good and caring until the birth of our son.” – Dilshad
Soon after the birth of her son, her husband’s family wanted money to buy a goods-trolley. Dilshad’s in-laws, including her five brothers-in-law, pressured Dilshad to get the money from her parents. But Dilshad’s father was a taxi driver and couldn’t have spared the amount of money they wanted. When she refused to ask her parents for the money, her in-laws began to physically torture her and threatened her for over a year.
When Dilshad complained to her husband, he refused to believe her. Dilshad knew her life was in danger, but she was afraid to tell her parents because her story was so disturbing. She finally reached out for help from some of her neighbors who offered their sympathy but did nothing to help her.
One evening, Dilshad’s mother-in-law asked her to prepare tea. So Dilshad lit the stove and put a pan of water on it, completely unaware that her mother-in-law was sneaking up behind her with a can of kerosene oil. As Dilshad added milk and tea powder to the boiling water, her mother-in-law emptied the can of kerosene all over Dilshad.
Before Dilshad realized what was happening, the fire from the stove engulfed her. She cried for help, but her mother-in-law fled with Dilshad’s baby. Dilshad’s neighbors heard her screaming and rushed over to cover her with a blanket. She was taken to the hospital and survived. But her face and hands were no longer the same.
Dilshad was forced not to say anything to the police and told them it was an accident. After her recovery, she went to live with her parents. Her husband and in-laws never came to take her back. Her parents petitioned the local elders to settle out of court and Dilshad’s husband divorced her. That was the end of Dilshad’s marital life. In a culture where divorced women and women with disabilities have traditionally been marginalized, Dilshad was now living with the challenge of both social stigmas. But her life was about to change…
In January 2003, Dilshad reached out to a local Artisan community in search of a new beginning.
The wounds on her hands had not even healed, yet.
Unable to work, she was asked to return when her wounds were healed.
Six months later, she returned and began training to become an Artisan.
Since then, she has never looked back.
“They showed me a new direction in life. In the aftermath of what happened to me, I was so confused. I didn’t know how to start afresh – how to groom my child. They kindled new hopes in my shattered life and gave it a new meaning.”
– Dilshad, Artisan in India
Dilshad’s Artisan Community was deeply inspired by her determination.
“It’s astonishing what all Dilshad could learn despite her heavily disabled hands. On her right hand, she can move only the index and middle finger very slightly. The rest is a clump of melted bone, flesh, and scarred skin. The left hand is usually hidden in her shawl. It can’t be used at all. Being able to hold a crochet needle – we started with a craft she had known already earlier – that encouraged her greatly.
But soon we noticed how many more things she was able to pick up. Thanks to having been a very neat person from before, she fulfills her craftmanship with great precision. Today she’s one of our best hand-painters. She executes textile printing with wooden blocks to perfection and does tailoring work. Through her work, she’s been able to sustain her expenses and look after her son’s needs. Her son has now completed 10th grade and is looking to study further. She wants her son to come up in life.” – Artisan Leaders in India
Dilshad’s New Story of Hope
“When I came to this workshop, my wounds on my hands were still raw. I couldn’t lift or hold anything. It took me 4 – 5 years to learn everything. Whatever samples I get, I’m capable of making now. There is immense joy in working with everyone! I’ve got something that is more than a family here! Here, I work with dignity and hard work. This Artisan community has helped me enormously! I didn’t take anyone’s help to educate my son. I did it alone!” – Dilshad, Artisan in India
“How much I have traveled! From struggling to survive to actually living now!”
– Dilshad, Artisan in India
Trade of Hope is partnering to help abused, marginalized, & differently-abled women in India experience dignity & hope as fair-trade Artisans.
Every purchase of our canvas market & gift totes from India supports Dilshad’s Artisan community.