We're excited to introduce you to one of our very first suppliers - Raven + Lily - and their vision of empowering women through design. One of our most popular items here at Lydali are the wood and leather bangles handcrafted by artisans like Ferdoz (pictured below) in Northern India. These women, often struggling in severe poverty or familial abuse, have partnered with local design studios to source, craft, and sell their work to a global market. Our wonderful blog intern, Alexis, interviewed Raven + Lily’s Operation Manager Cameron Crake about the groundwork R + L has laid out to promote more fair trade and eco-friendly products.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you got started working with Raven + Lily?
Cameron: I have been the Operations Manager at Raven + Lily for about a year and half now. I started working with the company after relocating from Uganda to Austin TX. I had lived in Uganda for over a year working with another social business, and was thrilled to be able to continue in a line of work that I am so passionate about.
Can you describe some of the social conditions women face in parts of Northern India?
Many of these women are widows or have been abandoned. In many cases they have few skills, which leaves them with few survival options. Its partnerships like ours that help them have work with dignity!
On your website, Ferdoz describes how she and her eldest daughter worked at a design studio, sourcing materials and making artisan jewelry, while gaining emotional and financial independence in the process. Can you elaborate on this design studio and its partnership with Raven + Lily?
Ferdoz is a truly inspiring case!
She was left by her husband because she bore him only girls, and then he left
them with no way to survive on their own. Her daughter heard about our design
partnership and they were both able to begin working there. The design project
has now grown to be a small factory that employs several hundred women (and men
too). Ferdoz is now in charge of most of our jewelry production and has brought
other women into the program to train and manage.
How long have these women been working with the design studio? How do the facilitators recruit and train the women that are employed?
Employment time varies; some are
brand new and some have been working in the partnership for years. There is
always a need for employment in developing countries. When I lived in Uganda,
there wasn't a day that went by without someone on the street asking me for a
job. So I think in some cases employees have approached our partnership in
search of work, and others may hear about it from friends who have been hired.
It tends to be very community-based. And when the women start work, they all go
through a training process and are supervised by employees who have gained more
responsibility and worked there longer.
Finally, how has their community changed with your partnership with the design studio and collaborative efforts between local wood craftsmen and the women at the studio?
The main way R+L has impacted our India partnership is that our orders have enabled them to hire more women and provide more jobs for the community. We have also come along side them and helped them improve their designs skills so they can product products that appeal to the Western market. They are now selling to some other vendors in Canada and have been able to expand their business even further!
Thanks to Raven + Lily over 200 artisans in India and Ethiopia have been gainfully employed while more partnerships with artisans in Morocco, Burundi, Kenya, and Cambodia are currently in development. Raven + Lily also reinvests profits for literacy programs and healthcare benefits for artisans and their families. Thank you, Cameron, for taking the time to speak with us! Please find more Raven + Lily products here.