Thursday, 6 June 2013

Danusha - Design for a fairer world

I'd like to introduce you to a fantastic organisation. Called Danusha, this fairtrade company work with women affected by leprosy in Nepal. what they do is brilliant and the products they sell are beautiful. Allison shares with us a little about what they do and how she became involved.

There’s a saying that mighty oaks from little acorns grow. I’m not sure that they have oak trees in Nepal, though there are plenty of forests. In 2012 Danusha came into being as a fully fledged social enterprise and in 2013 we were accepted as members of the British Association of Fairtrade shops. So who are we and what do we do? Well, we’re a small organisation working to empower marginalised Nepali women and help them improve their lives, and just like an oak tree, we’re slowly growing.

The women we work with make beautiful jewellery which we sell in the UK. We’re delighted that a number of fair trade shops already stock our product and we’re hoping to expand our network of retailers. We’re passionate about equality, we believe that everyone has the right to decent working conditions and we run our workshops on fair trade principles. As part of the project we provide basic adult literacy classes, health education and we support the women as issues arise within their families. There’s also a micro credit scheme attached to the project which the women now manage independently. We’re really excited by this!

I remember the first time I stepped into the workshop at Lalgadh Leprosy Services centre. It was an incredibly moving experience as I watched women whose fingers had been lost to nerve damage manipulate stones and thread to make objects of beauty.

At that time I was working for another charity, but I really wanted to get involved with Danusha so was delighted when Sue Lavender offered me the chance to get onboard along with another friend, Katy Barr. 

One of my highlights in working with Danusha has been the opportunity to work directly with the women to develop new designs, and to watch them blossom as they gain in confidence. In their society any association with leprosy is a one way ticket to ostracisation so it’s fantastic to see them regaining the respect of their families and being accepted back into their communities. This is what skills training does. It gives people back their dignity and I love it! I also love the light and life and colour of Nepal. Being there is like fire for the soul. 

My Danusha experience has been life changing for me. I think far more carefully about what I buy and opt for fair trade whenever possible. Take a moment to look around. What can you see? If you’re reading this I guess there’s a computer, phone or tablet not too far away. Imagine all the people involved in making it. It’s impossible to know just how many pairs of hands it’s been through on its journey to your home, but it’s a fair bet there’s been some exploitation along the way. I’m not saying ‘don’t have a computer’, simply that we should all do what we can to redress the balance from time to time, and buying fair trade or revamping old items of clothing is a good first step. That’s why I love Ragbags and Gladrags and Claire’s message that you can step away from fast fashion and still dress with style and flair.

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