Rashmi Dhariwal truly set an example to build the life of many by providing them dignified livelihood opportunities through art and craft.
Rashmi is a successful textile engineer by profession and has worked in the past with a large manufacturing organization in India as head of technology and Quality Assurance.
During her work in Kota, she came in contact with an artisan community, who had expertise in hand weaving fine fabrics with intricate designs & motifs. The lack of access to a market and the technology-driven competition were taking their toll on the artisans and the art was dying along with their spirits. They were forcing their next generation to work as cheap laborers rather than pursue their rich art and culture. “That made me realize that there was a lot more in life and that I should try to make a difference, however small it may be,” Rashmi shared.She continued: “There had to be a bigger purpose of my being.”Rashmi left her job and spent some time with the community, helping them design modern products and identify ways to reach the market. This gave the artisans a lot of confidence and hope for their art. At the same time, the entire experience helped Rashmi visualize a process which could be used to support various artisans achieve economic sustainability and growth.
This was the time when she developed a model of sustainable development through ethical trade practices and a powerful solution to the social & economic development of the marginalized & underprivileged communities, especially in the developing third world. She founded a social enterprise named ‘SETU’, with the mission of empowering the social and economic standing of underprivileged artisans by providing them sustainable growth opportunities through Fair Trade practices. ‘SETU’ in Sanskrit means `the bridge’. As indicated from the name, SETU acts as a bridge between the underprivileged/ marginalized artisans and the international markets, at the same time, working for social, economic and environmental well-being of the artisan community. The main motto is to provide dignified
livelihood opportunities. This is a model of “Trade, not aid”, where people are trained to develop & upgrade their skills. Thus, instead of being dependent, they use these skills to become self-sustainable and earn their livelihood. SETU provides them trainings along with regular marketing platform. Capacity building, community development, infrastructure and machinery are also provided as per the need.
“I now feel that I am finally doing justice to the purpose of my existence on this earth. Life has become much more meaningful. I enjoy each and every moment of my work. With Fair Trade, everyone can make a difference in the world, however small it may be“, tells Rashmi to the team.
After closely working with the artisan communities and understanding their challenges for 3 years, she also founded a charitable Society called SETU-Society for Empowerment & Trade Upliftment of Artisans. The basic aim of the Society is to perform works of charity, implement social & economic welfare projects, spread education and raise awareness regarding various issues amongst the weaker sections of the society.
In her words “Every person should develop a feeling of giving back to the society, not necessarily in monetary terms only but by servicing the society in other ways, sparing some time for these less fortunate people, by sharing thoughts, skills and ideas with them. Even small things like teaching a poor kid in free time! It doesn’t cost much and on the other hand, it gives a feeling of mental peace and satisfaction which people are searching for their whole lives. Don’t look at these people with sympathy, rather lend a helping hand to them by making them self sustainable so that they can carve a life of dignity for themselves. In the form of SETU-Society, we have taken a small step towards fulfilling this aim and want others to become a part of our pious mission and get credited for bringing smiles on the faces of these people.”If you’re not reaching back to help anyone, then you’re not building a legacy.
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