#Empower_Women Earlier, followers read the story of poor women in India knitting hats for poor children in America. We have an update.
Knitting More than Hats: Strength, Dignity and Pride. Empowering themselves and reaching out to help others as well.
All of the 900 children at Waldo Middle School, located in Aurora, Illinois, are at or under the poverty line as of fall of 2014 and so receive free government lunches. 90% of the children are Hispanic and many of them are first generation in the U.S.
The local area is terrorized by gangs; hence the school is locked from the inside at all times, has police surveillance during school hours, and school uniforms are mandatory to prevent the wearing of local gang colors (a combination of yellow and black). When the principal was asked what the kids need most, volunteers at Embracing the World were expecting her to say, “Good calculators, computers, better textbooks,” but she said, “Hats and mittens because most of the kids walk to school and they have no bus service.” The winters in northern Illinois can get very bitter.
Embracing the World in the U.S. contacted Yamuna S.B. at Ammachi Labs in India. Yamuna is one of the many volunteers working with Embracing the World to help the poor rural village women in Uttarakhand, teaching them handicrafts. She explained that there are 60 women making woolen hats, and those hats could be shipped to the children at Waldo Middle School in Illinois. And now some of the children have their hats! More are being made — 900 in all! Embracing the World pays $2 per hat to the women of Uttarakhand, and the children stay warm walking to school.
The women in Uttarakhand, India are recovering from the 2013 floods. Many of them are widowed and the income from their craft is their only income. Their local belief system is that Shiva is upset with their village because the local priests stopped performing their spiritual rites as a strike/protest from the unlivable wages they were being paid and so a flood occurred in their village killing many. Before Ammachi Labs at Amrita University in India began training women, there was suicide and depression amongst the remaining people that survived the floods.
This project has been a force for hope for them. The women are paid for the hats they make, and the children keep warm on another continent. The connecting bridge is Embracing the World. Empowering Women & Communities and Offering Sustainable Solutions.
For many affected by the devastating floods in Uttarakhand, rebuilding lives was much more than picking up the pieces. Many were forced to start over from scratch and find new means for employment. When AMMACHI Labs went to Uttarakhand to bring skill training to the region, the team was amazed at the potential of the women there. Many women excelled in product design and were creative thinkers who explored different products based on local materials. Since the region was full of cement sandbags during the flood, a few young women designed and developed a macramé bag from used cement bags. Recently, the women became involved in knitting quality woolen socks and hats. They even found wool wholesalers, developed the product design and were able to secure some international orders.
“It was a beautiful experience to appreciate the talent of students who are not aware of their potential, says Zonal lead Yamuna Sandrine Bonin. “I felt like it was a great gift for them.” And now as doors are opening, the women have a renewed self-confidence to create other products from knitted wool. In September, several women from Uttarakhand came to Kerala to display their products at a handicraft fair with hundreds of other women from villages across India. “The women from Uttarakhand have a commendable sense of resilience,” says AMMACHI Labs Director Prof. Bhavani. “For them nothing is impossible.”