When people think of design, people generally visualize glamour, art exhibited in galleries, sculptures installed or similar things. But today I want to show you another side of design that makes the world a better place to live for all! Without taking much of your time, I take the pleasure of introducing Samoolam to all my readers. Samoolam is an organisation that helps women in Gaya develop craft skills and generate income through it. Their mission is to give women strength, knowledge, income and also self-dependence and freedom. They started with teaching crochet to poor women as it did not require much investment. From a small group of three, they are now a happy team of more than 80 women trained and earning their own livelihood. You will be amazed to see their products; hair clips, necklaces, earrings and much more with wonderful quality and design.
Lets hear the story from the initiator itself – Ms. Usha Prajapati.
1. When did you think of starting Samoolam?
The idea of Samoolam was conceived in September 2009. Immediately I returned to India from my overseas assignment in USA & China. There was a strong urge to connect with my roots and work for the community I came from back in Bihar. I was working on an idea of; strengthening our roots can lead to stronger growth of the place and community. Initially it was challenging to work in Bihar but my family became my first support system and encouraged me to go ahead.
I wanted to bring a feeling of pride and joy for the women who never got opportunities to realize their creative potential. I wanted to create a platform for them where they can prove themselves, earn pride in society and become financially independent. This journey began with giving craft skills to unskilled women workforce.
2. How difficult was it to bring these women under a roof and start training?
Initial journey was difficult, caste hierarchy systems; community mistrust financial crisis and many other subtle social issues were becoming hindrance.
Our journey has not been smooth from day one since we started our first group training in Jan 2010. Thirty women were trained and most of them did not follow up with skills they learnt and discontinued to work. Out of all only three of them continued to work with us because most of them shared that they were discouraged by their family members that crochet jewelry craftwork was non-conventional work and these kind of activity will not last for long. But I continued to work with three women ensuring their regular income. I continued to give work to our women on regular basis because I wanted them to improve their skills step by step although products were not of marketable quality. Journey of skill building and gaining trust of community was challenging took more than one year and half. After one and half year products quality had improved to a great extent, I had started feeling confident to bring it to a market platform. Now we are on the path when product quality has started creating its own demand. Most of previously trained women participants started joining the organization back. By March 2012, we had eighty women who joined the organization making crochet craft social enterprise bigger everyday.
3. When creativity is merged with a social cause, there is a big satisfaction. What do you feel about the whole thing?
Every day, by the end of it, I feel good and content that little bit of my efforts have contributed towards happiness of few women and their families in rural India.
4. Any message for the designers and artists regarding this?
Being a Designer and Development professional I realized that I am privileged ones in this society. Designers and Artists can contribute a lot for the social change with their power of creativity and Innovation. Innovation is the key to any problem so why can’t we use this to make our world a better place by bringing happiness for all.
The products are available at following places –
You are truly inspiring! Cheers Samoolam!
Courtesy – Ms. Usha Prajapati