1980-88

WE REAP WHAT WE SEW

India

Sometimes peacemaking can turn a financial profit too, as a group of entrepreneurial women from Bangalore ably demonstrated in the 1980s.

Tension and violence between religious groups has blighted the Indian subcontinent for decades. In the southern city of Bangalore, CHIPS’ work brought stability to impoverished Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities through an innovative, collaborative project.

The programme created a small garment industry founded on principles of common ownership which empowered and enabled groups of women from the slums to get a steady income and support their families.

Growing from the project’s initial sewing classes, a workshop was set up to make clothing. Training and improved organisation soon secured orders, and as the women took on more responsibility their self-confidence increased. Wages tripled.

In 1983 they merged with another local group who ran a local primary school and clinic – our disparate group of women were overcoming their traditional differences to support the wider needs of their community.

The collective began to specialise in making ties, and shops in England and Australia began buying the products. 1986 saw Traidcraft place their first order – which had tripled a year later.

By 1988, over 50 Muslim, Hindu and Christian women were working collaboratively to run this growing enterprise, stable with regular orders, good local governance and excellent, productive relationships between the women clearly established.

Peace had taken root, so CHIPS work in Bangalore was done – a profit far greater than simply financial return having been delivered.