Since I, Fritha, started on my Secret Projects journey I have learnt a number of valuable things about women’s empowerment. I would sum up the main points like this:
- A place on a Secret Pillow workshop acts as a kick-starter to financial independence.
- Being a member of the Secret Projects Maker Network provides a sense of entrepreneurship in the women - they feel like true entrepreneurs.
- When women earn their own money, they are in a stronger position at home and within their communities to make the best choices for themselves and their children.
- Women help others. They tell others about the project and encourage them to participate. They help each other to stitch, share equipment, develop their skills and form long lasting friendships. They help people in their local communities who they identify as worse off than them.
We are typically introduced to a group of women by a local NGO who has trained the women in basic sewing skills as part of a government initiative to provide skills to people who have very limited employment opportunities, whether it be a result of a lack of education, a scarcity of local jobs, or because of their social status (which might limit them to menial work). We build on the training they have received from the NGO and give them the opportunity to generate their own income by selling products which we sell on the international market. When we first meet them they often lack the self-confidence and resources to turn their newly acquired skill into an income-generating opportunity, so we focus a lot on this issue in our Training for Empowerment workshops.
We encourage them to think about how they can maximise their income-generating opportunities and seek paid work beyond what Secret Projects. This includes stitching saris and sari tops for local women, encouraging them to collaborate and use their strengths to form professional partnerships in which each person is responsible for a particular area of production: sourcing materials, training, quality controlling, finding customers, and marketing their services.
The women go on a journey with us and many of those who initially lacked the confidence or resources to be entrepreneurial have gone on to become trainers, delivering our training to new or existing members of their teams; have been voted teams leaders responsible for coordinating their team, sourcing materials; quality controlling. One of the women from our Peace Valley maker network has even opened her own shop. One group decided to donate a share of their income to help people in their local community who are struggling financially. They typically include elderly people who do not have children around to support them.
The women tell us that they are now in a position to be able to pay for their children to go to school, buy medicine, and put food on their table. In sharing the financial burden of paying for the basic essentials makes them feel stronger and more confident in themselves. I am delighted to be part of their journey.
Unfolding women’s power is not a complicated process. It just takes time, commitment and resources.