Jyoti FairWorks is a social enterprise, which combines fair trade fashion and women’s rights. Their goal is to assist socially disadvantaged Indian women on their way to a self-determined life. Jyoti offers them training in sewing, a fair salary and a permanent position in the company. Literacy and education programs with a focus in the areas of labor and women’s rights are funded through the proceeds. Jyotiy is Hindi and means “rising light”.
Jeanine Glöyer founded Jyoti in 2009 when she was just 20 years old. She studied International Relations at the TU Dresden, Germany, and specialized in human rights. After a voluntary service in the small southern Indian town Chittapur, she had gained insights into he reality of the people there. Located in one of the poorest regions of India, the majority of Chittapur’s population, especially women, is illiterate and often forced to work as day laborers in granite quarrying sites.
“I was deeply impressed by this experience and by the women’s unwavering strength and vitality. Still, they had so often repeated how much they long for a solid employment, a job that allows them to pay for their living expenses and school fees for their children. They didn’t want to depend on donations”, explains founder Jeanine Glöyer. After her return to Germany, the idea of a sewing workshop was born.
The greatest challenge was to find a woman that could teach other women how to sew, as the dressmaker’s job in India is traditionally a man’s job. Today, Jeanine employs 15 Indian women and has three other partners in the company. In the long run, Jyoti wants the women to find another well-paid job in which they can apply their newly acquired skills or even to become self-employed. “The steady income, our training program and especially the courage and the strength that have arisen within the women’s groups have given them strength and self-confidence. Today they lead other women, tell them about their work, organize workshops and guide self-help groups”, says Jeanine.
She and her team ensure that the products can be sold on the European market, while the NGO “Jyothi Seva Kendra” coordinates the work on-site in Chittapur.
But isn’t it colonialistic that a European woman leads a project in India? “This is a perfectly legitimate question, which has often given us a real headache! But ultimately it is the women themselves who convince us again and again of the value of our work. Their commitment and dedication ensures that we are equal partners”, Jeanine clarifies. Jyoti doesn’t see itself as humanitarian aid, but uses the possibilities of the European market and purchasing power to offer Indian women a well-paid job.
Cultural and religious contexts lead to very different lifestyles for women in Germany and India. To be a woman in today’s world means to find our own place in society, regardless of which country you live in. This includes discovering your own abilities and to be able to live a self-determined life. “This is how we contribute to womanhood”, says Jeanine, “and womanhood ultimately means humanity“.
>>> Jyoti’s employees introduce themselves
Text: Josephine Landertinger Forero