~ MAHATMA GANDHI
Excerpts from the April 2022 Newsletter
It has been an exciting time for Divineya! Face-to-face encounters are essential for connection, and Wendy’s work on the ground has both enhanced our existing partnerships and enabled new ones.
Our April newsletter celebrates the closeness, collaboration, and sisterhood that have defined her time in India.
“You don’t just visit India, because it’s not just a place. It’s a series of experiences weaving into each other: an unforgettable combination of vibrant people, intoxicating food, unsurpassed heritage and intense spirituality. More than simply visiting, it inspires immersion.
Enhancing its beauty is a pervasive sense of powerlessness. India does not unfold according to your schedule, and you learn quickly that surrender is easier than struggle. With that comes the patience necessary to truly inhabit the experience, giving rise to a sense of compassion, acceptance, and appreciation for all that is beyond your control.
Differences between Indian women and foreign women like me will always persist, but with time the boundaries can fade. It slowly becomes easier to appreciate local norms and expectations, especially the impact of gender inequality. My most recent journey exposed me to these dynamics in a manner that was both eye-opening and tested my personal resiliency. This fostered an intimate bond with my fellow women here, connecting me more closely to their daily life and the way in which gender difference colours it.
Personally contending with strict patriarchal values was a difficult but illuminating adjustment, and I have come away from this journey with such respect and honour for my sisters here. The resilience of these beautiful women – like Meera, who channels her passion and dedication into transforming her community – inspires me every day.”
One of Divineya’s major goals during Wendy’s time in India has been to initiate and coordinate resources and logistics for Sakhi Kunj’s programs in rural villages. The majority of our talented seamstresses live in Delhi and are a part of Meera’s local neighbourhoods. Now that we have established employment opportunities for these women, we want to support Meera’s goals of providing similar opportunities for women in rural areas, particularly the villages near Meera’s childhood home and in the community where her mother, Kamlesh Arya, operates.
As the first step, Wendy has been working with Meera to develop unique product lines which are tailored to the preexisting skills, techniques and knowledge that these women possess. This also involves identifying and connecting with local community leaders and figures who can assist in implementing Meera’s programs and act as organizers and supporters. Once we establish steady employment we can then introduce other skills training and workshops for women who are interested in pursuing careers and higher education.
One community partner who has stood out is Sobha, a long-time friend of Meera and her family.
Sobha is a dear family friend well known to Meera and her mother, Kamlesh. She lives in the rural village of Mayapuri, near Kamlesh’s organization called Arya Sugandh Sansthan. When Meera was a child, Sobha came to Kamlesh asking for any work she may have available. Kamlesh, with her open heart, befriended Sobha, and helped to support her by providing part-time employment as the caregiver for the residential children of her organization.
The ceaseless struggle for rural women
Sobha’s husband was unskilled and unable to maintain employment. As a responsible wife and mother, she felt obligated and pressured to provide for her family, but because her children were young and her husband was not working, she was only able to earn a small wage by doing stitch work from home.
Over the years as the children grew up Sobha continued to spend time and do part-time work at Arya Sugandh Sansthan. Meera graduated from university with a degree in home science and a post-graduate in social work. She shared her knowledge and skills at her mother’s organization teaching the children handwork and crafts alongside the skilled and experienced Sobha. It was the beginning of a wonderful partnership!
Motivation for new developments
As the years passed, Meera was married and moved to Delhi where she initiated Sakhi Kunj and began to support underprivileged women living in her community. With her friendship and connection to Sobha, Meera has been working with the women of Mayapuri village to develop a new product line made from recycled dupattas or Sarees (Indian shawls).
These traditional area rugs are called Paaydan rugs, and are used in homes throughout rural Uttar Pradesh (North India). We are excited to introduce these beautiful handcrafted rugs made of recycled materials to our future product lines once the designs have been perfected!
Building a community of like-mindedness
A particularly exciting development, as a result of Wendy’s time in India, is how many doors it has opened for Divineya. There are so many incredible women and fellow change-makers working on various projects for gender equality, sustainability and community growth, it is almost overwhelming! We are establishing relationships with several different organizations, and suffice to say we are truly inspired by our fellow humanitarians. One of our core values is about creating unity by sharing our mission and vision with nonprofits and charities just like us. We are excited to develop these relationships and together, foster the wave of female empowerment side-by-side!