Shari Keller is an American who has found her second home in India. She holds a PhD in anthropology and, as Fulbright scholar, she undertook research in the slums of Hyderabad for a year. In short, she has direct and extensive experience of the difficult reality of the destitute in the country she first visited in 1975.
It is very telling, therefore, that Shari has chosen to found a clothing social enterprise in Jaipur, as a way to make a living and contribute to the community. Entering Mehera Shaw’s facilities, the collegial atmosphere quickly denotes this company’s true socially conscious culture – a lingering feeling that goes over and above her Fairtrade certification hung on the office wall. In fact, the staff, hired regardless of caste and economic background, are Shari’s extended family.
The workers here have no daily production quotas – which in most cases are often unrealistic and force workers in other companies to work consistently overtime without due compensation. “Sure you lose some efficiency, but you gain so much more”, says Shari. Friendships based on understanding and respect, in fact. The lack of quotas also mitigates production stress. Not only is this better for the welfare of the workers, but also it results in ethical fair trade fashion of a higher quality. “I can take the time to pour care into my work”, says tailor Puran. Mehera Shaw’s ethical clothing garments are of the upmost quality, and a great contribution to The Fabric of Humanity’s offering.
We spent a week in and around Mehera Shaw’s facilities, and learned about every step in their production cycle. Arvind is the master dyer. He is responsible for meters and meters of colourful GOTS certified organic fabric hang drying against the background of the blue sky. Mehera Shaw uses traditional block printing, where blocks of wood are hand carved and used to stamp patterns in the fabrics. Ghanshyam is the master block printer (forth generation, no less!) and has great pride in his heritage and trade. “I enjoy intricate patterns, and would love for the world to appreciate what we do”, says Ghanshyam.
Ramu cuts the fabrics, getting them ready for stitching, as sewing is called here. He is proud that his work is putting his children through university, a feeling also shared by Meena, who heads quality control in the room next door. Many people here are extremely excited to offer their children greater opportunities than they had for themselves – something we all seem to share as humans. The significance of this opportunity hits us over the head as we step out of Mehera Shaw and compare it to the little chances at hand for people living in the street.
This short documentary contextualizes how The Fabric of Humanity is involved in India.
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