Baladarshan - Speed Trust from India
is the artisan in the spotlight this week
Baladarshan focuses on providing economic opportunities and social services for women in the slums of India. The company owns and runs SPEED Trust (Slum People Education and Economic Development), a non-profit organization supported by the sales of Baladarshan fair-trade products. SPEED Trust provides education, medical care and micro-credit loans to women in the slums of Chennai, India - the poorest of the poor. Originally the company started by simply organizing activities, which improved the livelihoods of those in the lower end of the Indian caste system. Today, the company has extended its vision and employs individual female artisans. These women are considered to be "Untouchables" (Dalits) within the Indian caste structure. Some are physically challenged or blind and not able to find work. Through the support of SPEED Trust and Baldarshan, these women are able to work from home, enabling them to receive fair wages while looking after their children.
About 50% of the Baladarshan women use basket weaving as their primary source of income, either in a single parent household (some women are widowed or deserted) or in addition to their husbands' work. As the cost of living rapidly increases in India, even women who own small business are complementing their income by making Baldarshan products. SPEED Trust provides the raw materials of collected recycled plastic and other colorful materials at no additional cost to the women and pays them per basket. In addition, eco-friendly polypropylene (recycled plastic) is used in the basket weaving, which helps reduce the environmental impact of the baskets.
By improving the lives of the artisans and families and accounting for the environmental impact of the baskets' production, Baladarshan and SPEED Trust make a positive impact on their communities as whole.
Thenmozhi is a young woman who has endured incredible hardship, but has found hope and opportunity with SPEED Trust. At the age of 16, Thenmozhi was run over by a train on her way to school, rendering her physically disabled and unable to move from her bed. Due to the accident, Thenmozhi had to give up her studies and was no longer able to help her family financially. Living in the slums of Chennai with her mother and sister, Thenmozhi felt she was becoming a burden to her family. Soon enough, Thenmozhi found an opportunity with SPEED Trust, and for the past five years, she has been making baskets from recycled materials. She is now able to support her whole family, allowing her younger sister to finish her education. With the aid of regular orders from SPEED Trust, Thenmozhi has not only made a better life for herself, but has improved the lives of her family members as well.Artisan Ravethy
Though nearly blind, Ravethy is one SPEED Trust's most skilled basketweavers, frequently experimenting with new basket designs. Ravethy lives in the Gandhi Nagar slum with her three children and her husband, whose income as a rickshaw puller is not enough to support the family. With the income from her weaving, Ravethy has given educational opportunity to her children. Her eldest daughter, Kavitha,is attending nursing school and her eldest son is studying engineering.