Interning with Secret Projects: Fi's Story! From Tooting to India... Working life with Secret Projects!

 19th Oct 2019 |  Work with us |  Fritha Mason


“Feminism is not about making women strong. Women are already strong. It is about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” – G.D Anderson

I have recently returned to the UK after 6 months working for Secret Projects India in Bengaluru. It was a lifechanging experience that has taught me so much about myself, human interactions, the sheer determination of women, the power of the global sisterhood, business for freedom and so so much more.

Having worked for Secret Projects in London for over a year, to finally meet the Makers whom I had heard so much about and to see the impact that the social business is having was so important to me. For 6 months I lived right next to the Secret Projects’ Training Support Unit and main office in a suburb in Northern Bengaluru. I lived and breathed Secret Projects and experienced what can only be described as ‘backstage India’.

My day-to-day life was so incredibly varied, with no day going completely to plan due to the wonderful and exciting unpredictability that is India! My tasks included audiovisual documentation of our Makers and their stories of empowerment, as well as carrying out interviews in order to measure impact and keep the connection between our Makers and our customers alive. I spent a significant amount of time in the workshop developing products and organising fabrics and materials for production and meeting with Makers in order to check on their progress and answer any queries.

I travelled far and wide in Bengaluru meeting stockists and connecting with other like minded brands, organisations and individuals in order to promote ethical production in the city. I also travelled beyond Bengaluru with my right-hand woman and Indian adoptive mother Lissy, Secret Projects’ meticulous and dedicated Quality Controller. We visited our Maker Groups in Hindupur and in the Nilgiris mountains to distribute materials and to lead training sessions on new products. These sessions were always incredibly motivating. We were always welcomed with such warmth and absolute eagerness to learn.

A highlight of my time in India was traveling to the northeast to the state of West Bengal. This being my first time in India, West Bengal was a completely different world to the South Indian experience that I had become familiar with in my first couple of months in the country. There, I met and spent time getting to know the inspirational Molly who runs a Secret Projects sewing unit in Canning Town, two hours outside of Kolkata. Molly is a talented seamstress and is utterly dedicated to the other Makers in her unit. She has built up a special safe space full of chatter and laughter and friendship, providing the vulnerable young women who attend the unit with so much more than training in dressmaking.

The Makers became my closest friends while in India: I spent time in their homes, I ate with them, I got to know their families, I went to the market with them, I was invited to their festival celebrations and birthday parties. Their warmth and compassion towards me was overwhelming. For me, this was the most amazing privilege of my role with Secret Projects: simply being human with these women and building beautiful friendships. The women showed me how every wound can heal and how every individual can rise up to claim their full worth and break into their fullest expression despite conflicting constraints around them. I have left a significant piece of me in India with these strong women.

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eBay for Change - a programme to boost social enterprise. We are proud to have won a place!

eBay for Change - a programme to boost social enterprise. We are proud to have won a place!

What is eBay for Change? It's a simple and effective idea! eBay for Change is a 'hub' on eBay UK that connects it's 29 million customers with a number . . . of social enterprises with a clear mission to provide income generating opportunities for marginalised communities in the UK, as well as overseas, which have been hit hard by Covid-19. We are proud to have won a place on the programme and are looking forward to working with eBay to grow and develop a completely new audience for our Ranges of clothing and homeware, lovingly stitched by our Maker Community.   How did we become involved? To deliver their new venture, eBay partnered with Social Enterprise UK and the World Fair Trade Organization with a clear idea to provide a global shop front to small businesses who reinvest their profits back into the communities they work with. As a member of both these partner organizations, we, and others were approached by eBay and asked to take part in a competitive application process and were completely proud and overjoyed when we were advised that we had won a place on the programme! “We are delighted to have Secret Projects on board the eBay for Change programme. We are excited that we can be a part of their mission to empower women in India and to also bring a wonderful collection of clothing and homeware to eBay customers". Helen Armstrong, eBay UK   What does this mean for Secret Projects? In short, it means a huge amount of new and exciting opportunities for us. eBay has an enormous customer base throughout the world and as part of eBay for Change, we can now promote Secret Projects, our vision and Secret Products to 29 million people! Our Makers will see their work being sold all over the world, which is something they absolutely delight in! Through being a part of this innovative programme, we are confident that our customer base will grow significantly and that will translate into more stitching work for our Makers, which means more income for them to support themselves, their families and children. As part of eBay for Change we are being given some fantastic support and guidance by the team at eBay, which is excellent and is helping us to navigate our way through this new market. We are learning so many great tips for retailers like us, who work hard to empower communities. We are starting small and selling a limited number of Secret Products for now... but with a firm intention to grow our presence over time. To visit our eBay for Change shop HERE. A plea to end... those of you who have an eBay account, please can you add Secret Projects to your favourites. Thanks!   Photo: Women from the Secret Projects Maker Community gather round the sewing machine!
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Notice of the 2021 Annual General Meeting of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society

Notice of the 2021 Annual General Meeting of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society

The 2021 Annual General Meeting of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society will be held on Wednesday 30th June 2021 at 1pm (BST) via Zoom. (A link . . . to the meeting will be sent to all Shareholders later on this month.) Invitations have been sent to all Shareholders today, June 1st via email. Please do check your in-box and if it hasn't arrived, have a look in your junk folders and, if it appears to still not have reached you, email invest@secretprojects.org and we will send out another. We look forward to seeing our Shareholders and providing a full up-date about the business throughout the last year.  
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Our Appeal - help us to make and distribute 10,000 Secret Face Masks to communities in India

Our Appeal - help us to make and distribute 10,000 Secret Face Masks to communities in India

The brainchild of Sumathi, Director and Shin, Marketing Manager of Social Power India (SPI), we would like to introduce an appeal to provide Secret . . . Face Masks, produced by women from our Maker Community and given free of charge to communities in need throughout India. The details... We want to make and distribute 10,000 Secret Face Masks Sponsorship costs are £20/€25/$30 for a pack of 20 children's masks and £25/€30/$35 for a pack of 20 adult's face masks Backers of our appeal are able to sponsor multiple packs of Secret Face Masks One of the most positive aspects of our appeal lies in the fact that not only will we be providing vital face masks for those in need, but women from our Maker Community who are able to work from home during lockdown, as we don't operate from a factory, can continue production of the masks and receive an income to support themselves, their families, and children during this incredibly difficult time. To sponsor Secret Face Masks for India Please follow these instructions carefully Please head to our online retail shops by clicking the links below. (Shop in GBP, Euros or US Dollars) Sponsor Secret Face Masks in GBP Sponsor Secret Face Masks in Euros Sponsor Secret Face Masks in US Dollars Select how many packs of 20 Secret Face Masks you would like to sponsor to be distributed in India by SPI and add these to your basket. Next, click the link in point number 2 of the instructions to choose a pack of 5 Secret Face Masks for yourself (available in both adults and children's sizes) at £10/€14/$15 per pack (the shipping is free) and again, add to your basket.* Finally, follow the instructions to complete your purchase, providing a shipping address.* *Please note that due to Indian export regulations, we do require our Customers, Friends and Shareholders who would like to contribute to our Secret Face Mask sponsorship appeal to purchase at least one pack of 5 Secret Face Masks for themselves, to be shipped out of India to their address. As Bengaluru is currently in lock down, we will ship your Secret Face Masks as soon as the restrictions lift. These instructions are repeated when you go to our online shops! How we plan to distribute the face masks Initially, we plan to provide free face masks for whoever is in need in and around Bengaluru, where we are based and in Andhra Pradesh, South-East India and the Sundarbans in the Bay of Bengal, where we can work with our NGO partners. In and around Bengaluru Shin and Sumathi have many contacts in and around the area who can help us. We will give face masks to hospitals as well as marginalised communities in the city, where many of our Makers live. Andhra Pradesh and the Sundarbans In both these areas we have very good links with NGO's who work with groups of marginalised women. We will liaise with our partners and provide them with the necessary fabric and funds for local women's sewing groups to make the masks, and the NGO's will arrange for their distribution. One of the most positive aspects of our appeal lies in the fact that not only will we be providing vital face masks for those in need, but women from our Maker Community will stitch the masks and receive an income to support themselves, their families and children during this incredibly difficult time. Thank you so much for your support.
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