Picking up from where I left off in the previous post of this series, here’s the next installment. Clothing as a need, as a socio-economic void has seldom been addressed. But, some organizations like Purple Impression are taking that route to not only make ethically conscious apparel but also lend a hand to the sustainable quotient of this planet by reducing the cloth waste.
In this piece, I will take you to two more such organizations that are using ‘Clothing as an Instrument of Social Change’ and ‘Clothing as a Means of Giving Back their Dignity.’
Goonj: A Voice, and Effort
“We began making underwear as rural women had nothing to hold up pads.”
– Anshu Gupta, Founder of Goonj and Ramon Magsaysay Award recipient (2015)
Known as the Clothing Man, Anshu Gupta has spearheaded a movement to address the need of cloth in rural communities of India. Every time I would research about impact organizations in India, Goonj would top the list. There is something very fresh, raw and intriguing about the way this man and his team is leading a movement to create awareness about clothing as a cause to be addressed.
CEO Anshu Gupta on Field. Source: Rise Mahindra
Once on a cold night during winters in Delhi, Anshu came across some homeless people braving the freezing weather without sufficient clothing to protect them. That sight stirred a realization in his mind. We use clothing as a status symbol; a means to show our dignity. What about the people who neither have anything to eat nor a piece of cloth to cover their bodies? This thought led to the birth of Goonj.
I managed to arrange a phone call with Minakshi Gupta, a founding member of Goonj and even the buzz of a busy shopping mall in my background couldn’t deter me from being in awe while Minakshi spoke about Goonj and their work. Currently working on their flagship initiative ‘Cloth for Work,’ Goonj has initiated a 2-fold impact, of undertaking development work in rural areas and giving clothes in return as a ‘reward’ instead of ‘charity.’
“Clothing is about dignity. We want to help people feel dignified and not demean them through charity.”
– Minakshi Gupta, Founding Member, Goonj
Goonj annually deals with 2000 tons of material from urban areas that can be recycled for use. Through its 2500+ activities under ‘Cloth for Work,’ Goonj sources all the discarded but reusable materials from the urban areas and sends them to their processing centers with the help of their volunteers to make sure only the wearable usable material is packed into comprehensive family kits. Out of the unusable, unwearable material, Goonj makes MY Pads – cloth sanitary pads, school bags, sujnis (quilt cum mattress made out of cloth pieces) and a range of products under its label Green by Goonj. Through its processing units across 12 cities and product manufacturing operations Goonj is in the process creating employment and income generation for hundreds of women at the bottom of the pyramid.
Source: The Alternative
Through their network of grass root NGOs, Goonj keeps track of where there is a need for development work like building bridges, repairing the roads, digging up wells and employs people who are in need of clothing for completing the work, the decision for which is made by the individual village communities based on their pain points. These pain points vary from place to place. For instance, somewhere its a well, at another place there could be a need for repairing a road which is how 2500 plus activities are done every year across India.
Village communities work on their own pain points with their own wisdom and resources and as a reward for their efforts, Goonj gives individual participants the carefully made material family Kits. There is no monetary transaction with the participant. Apart from this Cloth for work initiative, Goonj also works in schools in urban and rural India by channelising excess school material from the resource abundant cities to resource starved villages.
As Minakshi rightly said,
“Clothing has often been neglected as a problem that must be tackled. Through this multi-fold impact model, we are creating an ecosystem where sustainable development can be achieved through dignified impact mechanism.”
Jimani Collections began with the founder Jennifer Bentley conduction training sessions for women in Jewellery in Kenya. The small activity metamorphosed into a sustainable brand that would create handcrafted products which provided sustainable livelihood to the women in Kenya. Jimani is soon entering into the accessories and home goods sector!
Women at Jimani: Ester is known for her sweet spirit and love for people. She is quickly becoming a skilled product creator who notices even the smallest details.
“At the heart of Jimani is the desire to offer a sustainable solution to poverty. Our ultimate goal is to create an opportunity for the smart, driven and capable women we are privileged to work alongside in Kenya who do not have the same choices and opportunities afforded to those of us born into other circumstances. We are passionate about empowering women and men to realize their full potential.”
– Jennifer Bentley, Jimani Collections
The socio-economic condition of women in Kenya is something that Jimani is fighting against, not to mention the shaky state of the Kenyan economy. Addressing both these problems head-on, Jimani sources all its raw materials from Kenya, contributing to the country’s economy. Their process of impact involves training the women in the craft and then employing them. The profits are invested back into the community to help the women in their personal lives, like sponsoring their children’s’ education, giving more health benefits, etc.
A Jimani employee undergoing the General Training. Source: Jimani Collections
Furthering the impact is Jimani’s latest entrepreneurial initiative called 10-10-10 whose goal is to provide the women with a robust, entrepreneurial training program to eventually a long-term income opportunity. Through this program, the women go through 10 months of business training in finance, marketing, and general business administration, and then 10 months of applying these skills in Jimani’s workshop. From there, the women are mentored to build their business models for the remaining 10 months.
“We really want to make sure the children and communities of these women prosper, and choosing to focus on women is the strongest route to get there” – Stephanie Stanton, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Jimani Collections
Impact organizations like Purple Impression, Goonj and Jimani Collections are creating disruption in the way clothing is perceived. Increasingly aware consumers on one hand and strategic partnerships with successful commercial brands on the other are helping ethical clothing organizations pave way for sustainable development of the people at BoP. Looking at what these enterprises are doing, the fabric of the concept of clothing is sure undergoing an active and welcome change.