November 2019 - A Journey to Women's Empowerment: North India

 18th Jul 2019 |  Travel |  Fritha Mason


We are delighted to share with you our second customer trip A Journey to Women's Empowerment: North India. In this trip, we will visit the state of West Bengal where we have three Maker Groups.

West Bengal is located between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal. It borders Bangladesh in the east, and Nepal and Bhutan in the north, as well as five other Indian states. Its capital is the formidable Kolkata.

The trip will take place the week commencing the 25th November 2019, for nine days.

We welcome customers to book a place on this trip. Bookings will be taken by our Indian company, Secret Pillow Project India, who will deliver the trip. We use PayPal to help customers make this transaction, quickly and easily, using their credit card.

How to Book and Pay

The cost of the trip based on a group of 6 persons is £1,750*. What the trip cost does not include:

  • International flights (travellers will be need to fly to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata)
  • Travel insurance
  • Cost of tourist visa
  • Drinks outside of mealtimes
  • Purchase of fabrics at shopping stops

If you would like to extend your trip, we can introduce you to a travel agent who who specialises in bespoke travel in India.

Please email travel@secretprojects.org confirming you would like to reserve a place.

You will receive information about how to pay your non-refundable deposit of 41,250 rupees (approx. £438).

You will receive confirmation of your booking from Secret Pillow Project India.

The balance for the trip will be requested 3 months before the trip (around the 1st August 2019).

*This price is based on twin-room sharing. If you would like to request a single room, then please let us know and we will send you a quote.

A Rough Itinerary for the Trip...

Day 1

Fly from London to Kolkata. That evening, Fritha will host the orientation dinner, giving you a detailed brief of the itinerary over a delicious meal.

Day 2

We will travel to meet Fatima's Unit, one of our newest Maker Groups who have started doing embroidery for new products we have developed.

That evening we will shop in the impressive markets of Kolkata, exploring the rich textiles and other delights that the city has to offer.

Day 3

We will travel on the train south of Kolkata with our business partner Rahat to visit Molly's Sewing Unit.

Day 4

We will spend this day visiting important landmarks in and around Kolkata, including Mother Teresa's tomb, the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanical Garden famous for The Great Banyan which is reckoned to be the largest tree in the world and the book markets. We will finish the day in the Burrabazar neighbourhood: on of the largest wholesale markets in India.

Day 5

We will visit our partners Freeset in for a tour of their premises. Freeset exists for the many women who have never had the choice to be free. They focus on providing positive employment opportunities for women affected by sex trafficking in West Bengal. That evening, we will get the train to Berhampore and stay overnight in Hotel Fame.

Day 6

We will visit the weaving unit to observe the weaving process, and another one of the Freeset Factories.

Day 7

We will take the train back from Berhampore to Kolkata.

Day 8

We will take the train east from Kolkata to Hasnabad. Near here, Momataaj's unit is based. This maker group has recently started doing traditional Kantha embroidery for us on scarves. One of the oldest forms of Indian embroidery, Kantha originated in West Bengal. We will be able to observe the women at work, and try some Kantha stitching for ourselves.

We will return to Kolkata for a delicious curry dinner.

Day 9

Fly back to London.

Opportunities During the Trip

Have your very own bespoke Secret Sari Dress made by one of our Makers.Shop in the biggest sari market in the world.

Have access to backstage West Bengal, where you will have the opportunity to learn about the challenges faced by women because of human trafficking, but also learn incredible stories of survival and bravery.

Visit communities on the border between India and Bangladesh.

Visit an active handloom factory, which are extremely rare in India now.

Visit the renowned social business Freeset, which has been providing employment for survivors of human traffickers for over 30 years.

Learn about local stitching traditions of region including kantha.

Learn the story of the sari and how it is woven into the everyday life of Indian women.

Enjoy being covered in Henna!

* All photos taken from Fritha's trip to West Bengal in September 2018 *

More

A new Maker Group and production of face masks for our Secret Face Masks for India Appeal has begun

A new Maker Group and production of face masks for our Secret Face Masks for India Appeal has begun

Partly situated in West Bengal on the Bangladesh border, the group is based in the Sundarbans, an outstandingly beautiful and remote region of . . . mangrove forest. Being such an isolated part of the world, the area is a key target for gangs of human traffickers and income generating opportunities, especially for women are scarce. A little more about the women... We met the NGO supporting the women when on a Customer Trip to West Bengal before lockdown gripped the world and were immediately impressed with their work and mission and how their values aligned so closely with Secret Projects. They work with groups of marginalized women who are at risk of being trafficked and help them to enhance their sewing skills by providing tailoring and stitching training and then go on to earn income by using these skills. We were very keen to work together, but obviously the global pandemic meant that plans had to be placed on hold. We launched our Sponsor Secret Face Masks for India appeal in May '21 to not only help slow down the spread of the virus in the country, but to provide our Makers with a chance to earn money to support themselves and their families and children by producing the masks. We decided that we wanted to distribute the masks in and around Bengaluru, where many of our Makers live as well as in the regions of Andhra Pradesh and the Sundarbans. How we are working together We contacted the NGO and had a very productive meeting via Zoom and agreed that the group would make 1000 sponsored face masks for Secret Projects and distribute them to communities most in need in the area. Lissy, our Quality Controller and Maker provided virtual training about how to make Secret Face Masks to our specifications and the production process has now begun! The group has started by making a small number of masks that have been returned to Lissy for a quality control check before full production begins. She has been very impressed with the standard and is currently feeding back to the group about a few small adjustments that need making and following this the stitching of the 1000 face masks will commence. We look forward to sharing further details about the making of the masks and their distribution soon. We are excited to be working with this new group of Makers at what is an incredibly difficult time for India and look forward to growing and developing our relationship to empower women through training and the making and selling of clothing and homeware. If you would like to sponsor a pack/s of Secret Face Masks, please click here for more information. Photo: The women from the Sundarbans Maker Group with team members of the NGO that supports them.
Continue reading >
We are over the moon to be part of 'Beyond Beautiful' -  a collection of artisanal products curated by the World Fair Trade Organization

We are over the moon to be part of 'Beyond Beautiful' - a collection of artisanal products curated by the World Fair Trade Organization

As provisional members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), we are absolutely delighted to have been chosen to be featured in one of their . . . latest programmes, 'Beyond Beautiful' Beyond Beautiful... ‘Beyond Beautiful’ is a curated collection of artisanal products from verified Fair Trade Enterprises around the world. How does it help our mission to empower women in India? It promotes the work and stories of global craftspeople providing a new sourcing opportunity for retailers and importers wishing to expand their fair trade offer. So, in a nutshell, being part of Beyond Beautiful showcases Secret Products to new markets and buyers keen to purchase from ethical producers and Fair Trade product lines. A great opportunity for us! It is one of our major goals to increase our profile amongst retailers, importers and wholesalers, giving the opportunity for Secret Products to be sold more widely all over the world. Being part of Beyond Beautiful is a wonderful step for us towards achieving this goal and we are proud and excited to have been chosen by WFTO as one of their featured producers. If you have any contacts within the retail/wholesale world who are keen to expand their range of fair trade products, please pass on their details to our CEO, Fritha Mason: fritha@secretprojects.org Photo: Kantha Blankets made for Secret Projects as featured in Beyond Beautiful
Continue reading >
The first AGM of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society - a review

The first AGM of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society - a review

The first ever AGM of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society (SPCBS) was held on Wednesday 30th June 2021 via Zoom. We were delighted to have 25 . . . Shareholders attending the meeting in person, with a further 23 Shareholders represented via proxy. Opened and chaired by Secret Projects CEO, Fritha Mason, presentations were given by:   Banke Ajayi, Financial Director of SPCBS Fritha Mason, CEO of SPCBS Sumathi Thyagarajan, Acting Director of Social Power India (SPI) Shin Rumani, Marketing Manager of SPI Margaret Ring, Communications Manager of SPCBS   The main theme of the meeting naturally revolved around the affects that COVID-19 has had on the business and Banke Ajayi was able to provide a positive report about how the Society has fared financially over the last year. She stated that we had survived the global pandemic, which is a good base from which to grow over the next few years. As this was our first AGM, the team were excited to present and engage with Shareholders and were delighted with how the meeting progressed and the positive comments received from people. We would like to express gratitude to our Shareholders for their continued support and positive involvement in Secret Projects Community Benefit Society and we look forward to our second year as a Community Benefit Society and empowering women in India through the training and the making and selling of clothing and homeware.  
Continue reading >