Saheli Women - Friendship and Fashion in a Rural Indian Village

Transcend has partnered with Saheli Women, a NGO (non-governmental organization) based in Rajasthan, India to create and launch a collection of artisan embroidered masks. The nonprofit organization employs more than 30 women in rural India, many of whom have never worked outside their homes.
(Check out this podcast in which each of the Saheli Women tells her riveting life story)
Meet Madhu Vaishnav - Founder of Saheli Women
Madhu is an embodiment of how a whole community benefits when a woman chases her inspiration and lives out her full potential!​ 

Like many other women in India, Madhu got married early in her 20s and was forbidden to work outside her house, even with a masters degree. She taught herself English in order to stay involved in her children's education. Eventually, she convinced her family to work as a school teacher. After four years as a teacher, Madhu joined an American non-profit NGO in India and worked to support the education of sex workers, raise HIV and AIDS awareness, provide skills training and make micro-finance opportunities available.

In 2014, Madhu was inspired to start her own non-profit - the Institute for Philanthropy and Humanitarian Development (IPHD) with the goal of community development through female empowerment - and brought to life her fashion social enterprise, SAHELI (female friend in Hindi).​
Saheli Women - Friendship and Fashion in Rural Rajasthan
 
Saheli Women
Through her NGO, Madhu provides employment opportunities to the women in Bhikamkor - a rural village in Rajasthan, India, where women learn sewing and embroidery techniques.

Now six years later, Saheli Women has become the commerce center of the village. Working here is one of the only ways for women in both the Bhikamkor community and neighboring villages to earn money. Working at Saheli, women are able to earn enough money to save, send their children to school, and become financially independent.

The women of Saheli work in an atelier that feels like a home where they are free to cook, bring their children, brew chai, chat and celebrate life and Indian festivals together. ​In a country with a history of deeply rooted caste system, Saheli offers women a platform for fair and at-will employment opportunities. ​
Even with limited resources, Saheli is committed to sustainable and ethical practices such as zero fabric waste, using upcycled, organic and GOTS certified biodegradable fabrics. They pride themselves on sourcing fabrics only from ethically producing manufacturers in India. Saheli promotes handloom, woven, vegetable-dyed fabrics, ahimsa (peace) silk, GOTS certified ink and artisanal embroidery skills to preserve age old craftsmanship. ​All products are shipped in reuseable, and unbleached cotton bags. ​

COVID-19 IMPACT ON SAHELI
India's lockdown initially resulted in the temporary closure of the SAHELI center, but Madhu's non-profit continued to support its women with food supplies and cash. Employment at Saheli is the only source of income for the women at the rural atelier.
Here at Transcend, we loved partnering with Saheli for our first ever collection of sustainable and handmade masks. 100% of the profits from the masks made by these talented women will be reinvested back with their organization to give them more work and an opportunity to support themselves and their families.
These beautiful masks are created using eco-conscious handspun and handwoven cotton (khadi) and the lining is made using soft muslin fabric.
We hope you enjoyed learning about Madhu and her incredible NGO - Saheli Women. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!



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