I have been trying to summarize 2014 for several days now. To say it was a big year is an understatement. It was the year Sewing New Futures became a real legit (registered!) business. Our story is a confusing journey. I (Kristin) didn’t plan on starting a social enterprise. I originally came to India a few years ago after quitting a paying job in corporate America for an unpaid job for anti-sex trafficking NGO. I planned to stay a year, learn some cool stuff, have some great stories and then go to law school. Fall 2011, I went on a field visit to Najafgarh (West Delhi -past Dwarka) where the NGO I worked with ran a centre. We had an event for the kids that day to encourage education and literacy. One of the women, during the event invited me into her home for chai I grabbed two of the staff members (Priyanka and Monika), to come with me. After we left, the field staff asked me to come back the next day- it turned out the staff had some trouble initially getting invited into their homes but when they came with a foreigner it was easier. Thus, began a year of my getting to know the Perna community. I learned how they are at risk to be exploited to a life of prostitution. No one bought them and sold them. But, because of their scheduled caste status, for years of being treated like, “criminals” and “less than” in order to survive they marry their daughters at a young age (around 14), and after the birth of their first child, the in-laws/new husbands would drive them to more populated areas of Delhi (such as Uttam Nagar close by) where they would be forced to sleep with men for money. It was a cycle driven by the basic need to survive. Above all I heard the women express again and again their desire other employment and how they wanted another life for their daughters. The women all knew how to sew. They showed me homemade blankets, and things they had made. Although, flawed, I thought with guidance I could see people paying money back home for “handmade ideas” especially with the story behind the product. I begin working with a few women as a side income generation project with a talented applique artisan from Bihar and selling them back home to a friend’s store. They sold within days. When the NGO I worked with didn’t want to further any income generation activities- I decided to quit and form my own social enterprise, Sewing New Futures this past fall. The first thing I did was partner with a friend of mine in the states, The Shanti Project while we took our time researching and figuring out what and how we were going to do.
I went cycling one morning in Delhi and met (yet another) Priyanka, an Oxford MBA grad, who had run a successful E-Commerce business and works as a start up consultant. As soon as I met her I knew I wanted to work with her and knew she could sort us out. She indeed sorts us out everyday with financials (aka all the things I hate but need to love) and I am so privileged that I get to work with her.
In May we opened our first centre in Najafgarh. Our opening day was on one of the hottest days in Delhi, around 43 degrees and because of our puja (prayer ceremony) we had a fire pit in our room. That was fun. We launched our Indie Go-Go campaign shortly after that to get started. Thanks to everyone for the great year! Looking forward to the next.
Some 2014 highlights: