By Lindsay Beck
The last part of our visit with ASHA was a trip to see one of their top producers. After a short car ride, we met Ram Prasad Patwa in his bright, cheery workshop, saw some of his artisans at work, and had the opportunity to admire his beautiful jewelry!
Ram Prasad moved to Mumbai after high school, following in his brother’s footsteps to enter the jewelry market. After a few years, he set up his own business and later began working with ASHA Handicrafts in 1989. Originally making about $777 a year and with only a couple of artisans who worked for him, Ram Prasad himself was often the one completing the orders. Since working with ASHA, he has rebuilt his childhood home for his extended family while also building a new home for himself. Just recently, ASHA helped subsidize his workshop move from above his home into a two-room apartment (the one we were privileged to visit).
Today Ram Prasad supports seven artisans and can concentrate full time on marketing his products. Over the past six years, some of his artisans have even managed to purchase their own houses with their earnings.
One of Ram Prasad’s artisans, Shushila Yadav, has a particularly difficult and redemptive story. She was married with four children until 2004, at which point her husband deserted her, leaving her to take shelter with her already over-crowded extended family. To support her children she began to work from home making jewelry when ever she could get job work from local workshops. On average, she worked once in three days, making about $23 a month.
Since she met him in 2006, Ram Prasad has provided Sushila with regular employment. She no longer has to struggle for her living, and she enjoys her work. Asha Handicrafts and Ram Prasad have both assisted in paying for her children’s education.
I was so encouraged to hear Ram Prasad’s story and to witness how he is carrying forward fair trade principles into his own business! We were also (justifiably) overjoyed to sit in the workshop surrounded by beautifully crafted jewelry and choosing some to purchase! It was certainly a highlight of our trip.