Artisans and Corona Virus - Sunita

Sunita’s Perspective

From lockdown at home MESH Designer was able to call Sunita in S. India to ask how she was getting on during this long all-India lockdown, this is what she had to say.

"In the last few days we have been able to go in very small batches to the sewing room and practicing social distancing work on our fair trade orders for export. At the beginning life was very hard during the covid19 lockdown. Not able to do anything and being completely shut in the house is miserable. We have never been home for so long so it is hard to be home. At first, we just did cleaning sorting, working and making the home nice and cooking all the time and thinking of ways to use all the ingredients we have in stock. Later on we got orders for masks. We made 1,000 for the commissioner of police and another 2000 for another government department. We shared the work amongst all the members with sewing machines at home. Before the lockdown normal working days were happy and bright.. Busy in the mornings with house hold chores and then going to work from 9 am until 5:30 pm. Sometimes where there is lot of work we do extra hours to finish orders and then go back to house hold chores, there was a pattern in life."

"I am specialised in cutting, sewing, doing sampling and marketing (travelling and procuring raw materials for the group). Our organisation is called Jone Priyadarshini Mahila Mandal JPMM. it is a women’s society in a leprosy colony and we are practicing Fair Trade. Mostly we make products for MESH. I am glad we are part of fair trade because we are able to reach out far and wide with our products.

I am the daughter of a leprosy affected person, was married and had two children. My husband left me with the small children to look after . My in-laws were never supportive as they had their own issues. So I went home to my parents and lived with them and joined JPMM and started earning and being a support to my mother who is a widow and with her support I stood on my own feet. My Father-in-law became very ill and I looked after him so when he died the colony elders decided that I should be given his house, it is a very old house."

"Once I started working here I found a life at work and some courage and hope to stand on my own feet to support my children and make a living out of all this. I have managed to raise and educate my daughters. One is a nurse and the other is a beautician. As I had no support from my husband, nor parents I had no choice, but to work hard in order to make a living to support my family. I am happy and proud to be working here. If I had been working elsewhere then I would have to go very early and come home late. I might have to travel far and there might be expenses to travel. Here I feel safe to work along-side all the other women, I don’t have to travel far. I don’t get hassled by anyone which might be a worry if working somewhere else. My family is happy for me to be working here."

"The fair trade principle I like the best is the first one that is about providing opportunities for marginalised people. It has meant my Mum could work when she was younger even though my father had leprosy and as a single mother it means a lot to know that fair trade is designed for people like us."

"I would like JPMM to develop and be able to buy their own property and do many huge orders providing more opportunities for people who are in need like me. I am afraid with this covid 19 life in the future might be challenging so I want to tell all our customers during Covid 19 please wash your hands frequently wear the masks all the time when you are out and maintain the social distancing. Stay safe and please keep promoting our products, remember us all."

"I love sampling new products and I get very enthusiastic, but my work colleagues tease me because I talk to my products saying things like, “ Ah you are just the right shape” or “My this looks so very sweet” It is good to be working here."

April 2020