When we met our friends in India who shared the same dreams of women feeling acknowledged, welcomed and respected in every single workplace worldwide, we simply set out to make it happen. We implemented actions towards this goal into our own worlds, working together to create a label that embodied women empowerment in hopes for the ripple effect of love to bloom beyond our wildest imaginations. In many ways, it has!
In both our manufacturing facilities in India and our workplaces here in Australia, cultivating supportive and safe spaces for women has been our main priority. Our intention being to support and encourage nourishing and nurturing work environments that honour women in feeling confident to flow freely in their feminine essence.
It truly is heartwarming to realise those once big dreams of ours have slowly become a reality, and we are so grateful for your support throughout our journey.
When our founder, Megan, connected with Gayle, the woman behind Sewing the Seeds, there was an instant bond over a passion for creating safe spaces for women to thrive in.
Sewing the Seeds is a women’s empowerment initiative that utilises education and creativity through the enterprise of safe and sustainable employment to break the cycle of poverty for Indian women from marginalised communities.
Since 2017 we have had an ongoing agreement to order upcycled sari bags lovingly handmade by the women from Sewing the Seeds which we gift to our customers in their orders. We have also released a limited line of their products to support their goals of self-sufficiency.
Recently we pledged an ongoing monthly donation of $5,000 to go towards supporting this powerful non-profit organisation. Through our partnership, every Daughters of India order now assists Sewing the Seeds in providing safe environments for Indian women to build their self-confidence and financial independence.
Sewing the Seeds support Indian women from nomadic, tribal, sex worker and disabled communities, whereby cultural traditions including child marriage and gender based violence can have a significant impact on their lives. Many are single mothers.
Through providing these women with training in sewing and textiles as well as education on health and life skills, Sewing the Seeds holds space to cultivate a brighter future for them and their families.
What they do:
- Provide training in sewing and textiles
- Provide women with finance and business skills training
- Buy women sewing machines of their own
- Give women skills to act as a positive model for their children
- Preserve local craft traditions
- Create a communal space for women to work and feel safe in
- Pave a path towards economic independence
Operating under a slow fashion ethos, Sewing the Seeds products are made ethically and fair trade using upcycled and organic materials. Their purpose built centre runs training programs on business and finance skills as well as women’s health education. Empowering these women in a safe and supportive environment can truly be life changing.
In India, only 29% of women are actively employed, while 46% of Indian women earn less than men in similar positions. Nearly half the women in India are unable to read or write. Both Daughters of India and Sewing the Seeds are actively working towards changing these statistics, which is why partnering made so much sense.
Read our conversation with Sewing the Seeds below to learn more about their empowering journey so far.
Tell us the story behind Sewing the Seeds establishment
How it all began
Sewing The Seeds (STS) was founded in 2012 in Pondicherry by Gayle Factor and Bruno Savio (founder of local NGO Samugam Trust). Gayle first met Bruno in 2011 after cyclone Thane had destroyed many villages in the local area. After coordinating with Bruno to raise the funds to rebuild a tribal village, Gayle put her efforts into creating sustainable change for marginalised communities through women’s empowerment. She did this by working in partnership with Samugam and Bruno, and founded Sewing the Seeds, which in its inception, provided sewing training and sewing machines to over 130 women in Tamil Nadu and created opportunities for them to run their own businesses.
Where we are today
Since 2012, we have evolved through many learnings around what support the women who face social and economic barriers to safe work need. Through time and listening, what we learnt was:
- The women’s family home isn’t always a safe place for them to freely express themselves and feel safe. Therefore a need was a safe place outside their homes to work from.
- Gender inequities and social stigma around different social classes, being a widow, having a disability, being a sex worker or single mum still act as barriers in having access to employment. Therefore the need was a community of humans where they feel completely accepted for who they are at their place of work.
- Many women come from families living in poverty and therefore didn’t have access to formal education. This then means that many women do not have access to safe employment and economic stability to pay for their children’s education to come out of poverty. The need here was economic stability that can support their children’s education and family to break the generational poverty cycle.
From humble beginnings of four women training in a shed with no running water, we now have a purpose built centre that runs training programs and employs a small but growing group of 12 full-time women who are paid 14 times the average wage in Pondicherry. We do this by hand making wholesale and retail textile products for customers like Daughters of India, and use sustainable, ethical and cultural practices where we can.
The culture at STS (Sewing the Seeds) centres around community, connection and safety, where our priority is for all the women from different walks of life to feel safe coming to work. We do this through ‘coffee/chai time’ together every day where we take a moment to pause, reflect and connect about work and life. We also organise social club events to connect and celebrate.
STS provides ongoing upskilling and textiles training so the women can learn how to make more sophisticated products. In addition to sewing, the women are learning complimentary skills such as designing, hand stitching and pattern making, all of which are incorporated into our products.
Participants of STS receive an introduction to business and financial management skills, as well as women's health education. We have committed to working with expert organisations to deliver the programs of upskilling and support, and require help to maintain and grow this initiative.
What are Sewing the Seeds main goals and objectives?
We are committed to empowering women through employment to break the systemic cycle of poverty.
We do this by :
- Providing wages 14 times more than the average income
- Providing women with financial and business skills training
- Creating a communal space for them to work and feel safe in
- Preserve their local craft traditions
As a result of women being 90% more likely to save their earnings than men, and invest it in their families and communities, this in turn has a positive impact towards addressing generational poverty.
We aim to achieve the following long-term social impact outcomes:
- Increased savings capacity and stability of income
- Increased access to skills, training and development
- Increased self-confidence and self-esteem
- Increased access to exercise decision-making and collective agency
- Increased support for social participation and inclusion
- Reduced participation in unsafe working conditions
- Increased household financial purchasing power and autonomy
- Increased women's agency and changes to patriarchal gender roles
- Strengthened social structures and social inclusion in society.
How does Sewing the Seeds operate?
We operate as a social enterprise with a NFP arm and a business arm. We give back a portion of our income to Samugam Trust, our local NGO for community development and capacity building opportunities.
Roughly, how many women have Sewing the Seeds assisted thus far?
Over 250 women through training, education, employment and sewing machine donations, out of which we currently have 12 full-time employees, 4 part-time employees and over 160 women who have been employed through the gig economy where their skills have been required for locally and culturally designed products.
In what ways are Sewing the Seeds facilitating change?
- Since 2012 we have continuously improved our impact on women's lives in three main areas: employment, education and empowerment.
- This enables women to have the freedom to express their creativity and improve their independence and agency. It also increases their participation in society by breaking down existing cultural barriers such as gender and caste discrimination, intergenerational poverty, lack of education and economic independence.
- Prior to joining Sewing the Seeds many of our women were involved in unsafe and informal working environments which paid much below the minimum wage requirements corresponding to their employment activities.
- Through our model our participants are able to achieve empowerment not just for themselves, but also for their family and their whole community.
What are the future goals of Sewing the Seeds?
1. Impact Sustainability
To have a consistent and sustainable flow of orders through our sales pipeline to meet the need our women’s needs for employment and economic stability.
To have funding to support our management team in Australia and India to sustain the operations of our work particularly as we grow and can no longer operate as a volunteer sustainably.
2. Additional training support and services for the women
To provide upskilling support and training in textiles and leadership for the women.
3. Scale our impact
To partner with other social enterprises working with women and support them in having access to international markets, as our partnering with local Indian founders has been the largest pain point in sustainability.
To scale our own space so we can have more women who face barriers to employment to be a part of the STS family
Our Theory Of Change (below) further outlines the small and big picture of all the things we do.
Through our partnership with Sewing the Seeds, we hope to assist them in achieving their goals, ensuring more Indian women can continue working in safe and supportive environments that also contribute to holistic change benefiting their community as a whole.
We are so grateful for all of our customers' support. With your help we are slowly fulfilling our dreams of establishing women empowerment worldwide ~ together we are sowing seeds for change in our own backyards, planting gardens of love for our collective future!
With love and kindness,
(Words by Ella Josephine Archer)