Giving Women in India Voice, Choice, & Dignity – (Read Time: 5 min.)
Mosmeen’s Story of Hope
Surrounded by her fellow Artisans in a small private workshop in India, Mosmeen smiles as she braids the turquoise cotton cording and threads the delicate glass beads of her woven bracelet. As she ties on the finishing tassels, she knows that each bracelet represents an opportunity for her children to break the cycle of poverty that overwhelms so many families in their village.
She wants them to have a better life than she has experienced, beginning with a better education that will provide them with opportunities she did not have, especially for her daughters. Mosmeen wants her daughters to have voices… to have choices… to have dignity.
Mosmeen – Teen Bride
Mosmeen and her children live in a small village in India where strict social and religious traditions are still practiced, and poverty is a daily struggle for most families. Girls are not allowed to attend regular schools and women generally do not ever leave their homes. Instead, they spend the majority of their lives inside their homes doing household chores and caring for children. Many of these “housewives” are barely teenagers.
Growing up in an isolated and economically challenged community, Mosmeen learned how to braid jewelry to help support her family. But even with her help, Mosmeen’s father struggled to provide for them with the limited income he earned as a small farmer.
Like many parents in these small traditional villages, Mosmeen’s parents viewed marriage as the solution to their struggle to financially support their young daughter.
“This is the tradition in our village that when the girls become teenagers they are married off by the parents for a better life.
That is the way of life there and the girls have no say.” – Mosmeen
Hoping to provide her with a better life, Mosmeen’s parents married her off to a man from another village at a very young age.
Mosmeen – Abandoned Mother
But Mosmeen recalls that her arranged marriage did not provide her with a better life.
“In fact, it became more difficult. Sadly, some years later my husband deserted me and married another woman. I was left alone with my three children with no security and dignity.” – Mosmeen
As an abandoned former teen bride, the strict traditions and gender-biased culture of their small isolated village made re-marriage, as well as finding employment with three young children to care for, extremely unlikely possibilities for Mosmeen.
Mosmeen – Exploited Artisan
Using the skills she learned during her childhood, Mosmeen and other young women in her village began to handcraft jewelry.
But shrewd businesses from the cities took advantage of the trusting nature and vulnerability of these uneducated and inexperienced businesswomen.
The businesses often cheated the Artisans out of fair wages – sometimes even refusing to pay them at all.
When a group of fair-trade Artisans visited their village, they saw how Mosmeen and so many other local women were being exploited by the unethical businesses from the cities. As they listened to the women’s stories of abuse and neglect, they could not ignore their cries for help. Believing that Mosmeen and her fellow Artisans deserved to be treated with fairness and dignity, they began to teach them how to operate a fair-trade business.
Mosmeen – Independent Businesswoman
At first, Mosmeen and the other women from her village were afraid to stand up for themselves… or even leave their homes. But eventually, after earning the women’s trust, their new mentors were able to convince the women to visit them in the city.
As their relationship continued to grow, the new community of fair-trade Artisans in Mosmeen’s village gained more and more business knowledge, financial independence, confidence, and dignity. Mosmeen’s journey from teen bride to independent businesswoman has been a journey from having no voice to becoming a voice for other young women in her village.
The young girl who once had no choice over her future, is now a mature woman who confidently teaches her own daughters to proactively explore their own potential and make their own wise choices. The once abandoned and neglected mother has found dignity and value through her own creative talents… and the hope that comes when another human being sees dignity and value in someone whom others have dismissed.
“We have our dignity and economic security. We did not get opportunities to go to school, but I am happy that my children are getting education.
This could only be possible through Fair Trade. It gives us strength, and we have learned to speak what we believe in.” – Mosmeen
Mosmeen – A Symbol of Hope
Each piece of Trades of Hope jewelry from India tells a story of a woman like Mosmeen who is overcoming poverty and oppression. Mosmeen and the women in her community handcraft jewelry using Artisan traditions from the past to create symbols of hope for a brighter future for their daughters. Each piece of jewelry gives a woman in India hope for a future with a voice… a choice… and dignity.