Freshly available at Seven Coffee Roasters Market & Café are our very own Seven Roasters Market & Café grocery totes. And what makes these totes more special than their labeling is where and by whom they were produced: They were made in New Delhi, India, by women of economic need trained and employed by Work + Shelter.
Work + Shelter is a nonprofit company that was founded by Theresa VanderMeer, a graduate of the University of Michigan, in 2011. Work + Shelter focuses on providing high-quality fabric products to businesses all around the world created specifically by Indian women who can demonstrate financial vulnerability. Work + Shelter provides these women training in both sewing and production management and, thereafter, consistent work in safe working conditions.
Unfortunately, women in India suffer in alarming numbers from exploitation and abuse. And Work + Shelter believes one way to combat the statistics and, more importantly, help the women the statistics represent is to offer Indian women an avenue to financial agency.
Many women in India are not able to secure salaried positions or other sources of reliable income. This can leave them dependent on their husbands or other men in their lives, who might themselves have a similarly unreliable income. Financial agency, or financial independence, can allow Indian women to make the best decisions for themselves and their children and to escape potentially dangerous situations.
Work + Shelter’s method in helping Indian women achieve financial agency is as simple as it is intrepid. Work + Shelter hires are first put through a paid training course, where they are trained in the skills necessary to manufacture market ready products, and when a Work + Shelter hire finishes her training, she is given a pay raise and put right to work.
And Work + Shelter does not stop at paying its employees a fair wage. The women work no longer than eight-hour days and are provided regular breaks—a stark contrast to the sweatshops sadly sometimes associated with Asia. Work + Shelter also works with its employees individually to ensure that each is receiving proper access to healthcare, that her children or the children in her family are able to go to school, and that she is able to address any other particular challenges in her life.
Beyond its focus on empowering Indian women, Work + Shelter also endeavors to maintain an efficient and environmentally friendly operation. On top of being mindful of how scrap material is managed, Work + Shelter makes a point of utilizing cotton certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, a leading world standard for processing textiles from organic fibers—one hurdle for certification is 70 percent of fibers in a manufacturer’s products must be organic. Work + Shelter is also able to source materials from nontraditional sources, such as hand-woven materials from organizations for social benefit, or materials from low-impact fibers, such as jute.
Work + Shelter maintains a small workforce and encourages its employees to build themselves up toward entrepreneurial success. Work + Shelter is proud to have helped over thirty women in India improve their lives over the last six years and, at the same time, created an international brand that provides high-quality, sustainable products.
So the next time you visit Seven Coffee Roasters Market & Café, keep an eye out for our new Seven Coffee Roasters Market & Café totes, brought to you by a company founded on the desire to promote and act out real, pragmatic change in the world, and perhaps visit Workshelter.org for yourself to learn more, meet the leadership, donate, or even see what products Work + Shelter can provide for you.