Last December I travelled to Nepal. I had been in talks with a new factory, a social enterprise working to improve the lives of women escaping the slave industry.
However, while I was there, I was introduced to yet another social venture, run by Mirjam and Preston. One which involved teaching local women to knit and crochet, women who regardless of hardship, were seeking to escape poverty, through employment.
Their company Dinadi is based in Nepal, where unemployment currently sits around 46% and 25% of the population live below the poverty line. An estimated 13,000 young girls a year are trafficked to brothels in India, which just blows my mind.
For Mirjam and Preston, it has become an adventure like no other.
Their shared vision includes both creating ethical employment opportunities for women of disadvantage in Nepal, whilst at the same time celebrating the role of the artisan, who has so carefully handcrafted each item. That is why, as a sign of respect, each product carries a label, hand signed by its maker.
But Mirjam and Preston don't just talk the talk, they walk the distance.
At the heart of the community they are creating, lies the principles of fairness, ensuring their workers are treated with dignity and are fairly compensated for the work they do.
This translates as:
- Living wages
- paying up to 90% of school tuitions ( currently the literacy rate of girls in Nepal is 53%)
- Flexible working conditions, the freedom to work from home and set their own hours.
- Skills training in knitting and crocheting
- Life skills training with the support of an in-house Social Worker.
It is social entrepreneurs like Mirjam and Preston, who are not only driving real change within the community of Nepal but are part of a dawning of a new movement in global manufacturing.
One where the disaster, both environmentally and socially we have created with the disposable fashion phenomenon, is slowly being replaced with a desire for products that are well made, from sustainably sourced materials. One where the local maker is paid a living wage, working in safety, and one where the consumer has a real connection with the maker of the goods.
I could say all the PR friendly things about being incredibly excited .... but actually, I am just humbled to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Dinadi, proud of these beautiful beanies, a mix of bamboo viscose and merino wool, and proud of what they stand for.
Yes, they will cost you more than a beanie knitted in a large factory by machines, from cotton or synthetic fibres, so if the price is all that matters, these are not for you. But if providing meaningful incomes, social support, dignity and empowerment for people who through poverty have been subjected to some of the worst deprivation and degradation, then don't miss out!
Our customers love them ..... you will too!