Traveling to Rural India is like walking into a living National Geographic article. Men walk past wearing straw hats and carrying large bales of hay on their head. Women wear bright saris and keep their heads covered to passers-by. You are greeted everywhere by cows and goats. (and sometimes monkeys!)
The main two crops grown in rural West Bengal are rice and jute.
This week, I was visiting with Freeset Fabrics in Murshidabad. These factories, which train women in traditional weaving, were created to help impoverished women in this area, which is one of the greatest sources of sex trafficking in the State of West Bengal. Most of the families here survive off of subsistence farming, which only provides for a few months of the year. Weaving means that these women can provide for their families year-round without having to worry about selling their bodies.
“If I did not work here at Freeset Fabrics, my family and I would all die from poverty.” – Aruna
Within 2 years of weaving scarves, Aruna is now one of the best weavers at Freeset Fabrics in rural West Bengal. She’s able to buy nutritious food for her two daughters, pay for her mother’s operation, and install a water tap in her home. Now, she plans to build a new home; she has dreams! Despite being in a culture that struggles with seeing women as equal to men, Aruna realized for herself that she is equal to a man. She understands her value as an individual and as a woman now. (1)
In India, “Every stage of existence – birth, betrothal, marriage, death – is marked with gifts of cloth. . . As a result, women’s wardrobes are like fabric archives of their lives, recalling significant relationships and events. Gifts of cloth forge new relationships and sustain older ones.” (2) Thus, it makes sense that Freeset would choose the path of textiles to offer freedom to women in rural West Bengal.
(1) “Freeset Fabrics: Our journey so far.” Freeset – News. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2017. <http://freesetglobal.com/news/98/80/Freeset-Fabrics-Our-journey-so-far>.
(2) Tarlo, Emma. “Life’s Great Pageant.” V & A MagazineWinter 2015: n. pag. Print.