Monday, June 27, 2011
First Meeting with Chidiya
Yesterday, we had our first formal meeting with the Chidiya women and our translator. Chidiya, which means jewelry in Tamil, is the name of the group of Narikuravar female artisans that Nest gives loans to. Nest provides interest free loans for them to purchase raw materials. Nest will then give Chidiya orders of jewelry throughout the year to sell in the US market. You can check some of the products that the Narikuravar women make under the necklaces section on www.buildanest.com :)
The women explained that the local market in South India is extremely difficult. Before Nest came into their community, the women had to sell their necklaces for much cheaper prices out of necessity. When the women needed money right away to feed their families, they would sell their jewelry for whatever price the customer was willing to pay. Due to poor market conditions in South India, the women and their families would have to travel to North India by bus or walking in order to make a decent living. With the help of Nest opening up the US market to them, their need to travel has been diminished, thereby allowing the women to send their children to school.
In the meeting, we were also able to learn about other impacts that Nest has made since working with the women. The women explained that their community is ostracized from the rest of Indian society. The bus does not stop in their community to pick them up and they are largely looked down upon by other Indians. Nest shares the stories of these women so that people around the world can learn about them and their culture. They are very thankful to be given access to the outside world. By partnering with Nest, they have been exposed to new technologies and foreigners. They welcome help from NGOs as they hope to improve their living conditions, since the Indian government is indifferent to their hardships.
I had a very good time listening to the women talk about their experiences with Nest firsthand, and was relieved to hear that they would be more than willing to cooperate with Rachna and I as we work with them in the next month. One of the older, vivacious women *Lolita (name changed) was very sweet in saying that she would force any of the members who decide to not show up out our meetings. I am so excited to work with these amazing women who are working to uplift their community by providing for their families. 5% of the profits that Chidiya makes go towards the children’s school, food, and health necessities. I can only hope that I can help make a positive difference for these women while I am here. From the meeting, it seemed that what the women really need is a bigger market. They have the time and materials to make and sell more necklaces but they need more customers. This is a call that goes out to all of you! Check out Nest’s website whenever you are looking to buy jewelry for yourself or as presents. These women are highly skilled at their traditional craft of making jewelry and their work is absolutely beautiful. Plus, your purchase will go towards bettering the livelihoods of women who really need the income.
On another note, monsoon season is upon us! I’m kind of excited to see rain after the crazy heat that we experienced last week.