W+S New Delhi

WORK+SHELTER focuses on women’s empowerment and poverty alleviation. Fundamentally, we provide women in India with fair-trade work and, should they need it, a safe place to live with their dependents. Each shelter has a physical location where activities are centralized.

At our pilot, W+S New Delhi, women are entered into our paid training program where we teach them the skills to create high-quality products for the export market. The only entry prerequisite we have is demonstrated economic need. When the woman completes training and begins to produce for the export market, we increase her pay. The women are paid whether or not the products sell.

Beyond work and shelter, we regularly confer with the women to ensure their other key needs are met. For example, at W+S New Delhi we are currently assisting one stakeholder to find medical support for her kidney problems. We also actively support the women to ensure children in their family are in school. We are aware of each woman’s unique challenges and actively work with them to overcome them together.

The Women

As of December, 2012 we have brought 6 women on board. Their brief profiles are as follows:

Seema is a joy to be around. She is helpful and good-natured, and lives across the street from us. We found out only after bringing her on board that her husband beats her. She’s told us that her work at the shelter has had a huge impact on her life – her husband now works more (he doesn’t want to be seen as working less than her), and she has a secret savings account in the case that she decides to leave him.

Kulwant heard about us through a friend. Her husband is an alcoholic whose drinking left them destitute – having traded their scooter and other few possessions for liquor. Her income is critical to the survival of the family.

Ritu’s family lives in a crumbled concrete building across the street from the shelter, though they’ve been able to build a wall with the income from Ritu’s work. When she first started at WORK+SHELTER she and her sister would share one scarf, trading it when one of them needs to go out in public. We were surprised to learn that Ritu is 21 since she is extremely petite, and thus likely undernourished as a child. We hired her on the condition that her younger sister should no longer work making bangles – she should be in school or studying instead.

Baljit regrets that her parents didn’t do a more thorough background check before her arranged marriage. Her husband is mentally ill and cannot work. It is up to her to support herself and her family.

Ramkali, her husband, and five children (4 girls) all lived on $40 to $60 USD (2000 to 3000 rupees) per month before she began at WORK+SHELTER. Like many Indian women, despite the financial constraints she was pressured to continue to have children until she finally had a boy, and has since struggled to put food on the table. Before she started at W+S her children were not enrolled in school, but now she pays for their tuition and transport with her wages.