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Mela’s Social Impact: What Motivates Us to Inspire Change

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Throughout this week leading up to International Women’s Day on March 8, Mela Moments will celebrate the accomplishments of women artisans, designers and leaders who epitomize this year’s theme “Inspiring Change”.

What makes Mela Artisans different from other companies sourcing handmade products from India is our focus on impacting the lives of our artisans by informing ourselves about the daily struggles they face and working to assist them achieve their dreams.  Beyond bringing beautiful artisan made décor and accessories to a global market, we aim to create a connection between the western consumer and artisan communities that are often so different from their own. Our consumers should know that Mela’s business can have a dramatic, positive effect on entire villages and make important economic and social change possible.  

On a recent visit to Sambal, Utter Pradesh, where many of our beautiful horn and bone products are crafted, Mela staff took the photos below, highlighting  the beauty, hope and innocence of childhood around the globe.  These children, however, come from families that struggle to provide them the necessities of life including a basic education.  As we approach International Women’s Day 2014, we are reminded of the ever-persistent gender gap in access to education faced by young girls in the developing world and the importance of striving to change this not only today but every day of the year.  Education is a powerful way for young girls to develop an understanding of the world beyond their home, to prepare for careers and to feel empowered to direct their own lives. Mela Artisans is committed to doing everything we can to further the goal of helping girls grow into educated women.

A local school in one of Mela’s artisans’ communities.

India has a strong tradition of valuing education. For many of our artisans and their families, ensuring a quality education for their children is a primary focus. While much progress has been made in India over the past 20 years, there are still many challenges to overcome.

Children from Sambal, Utter Pradesh.

Although India has a relatively high literacy rate, there is a still a large discrepancy between males (88.4%) and females (74.4%).

A mother and her three daughters in the Sambal marketplace.

However, real progress has been made in school enrollment. At the primary school level, registration rates are nearly identical for males (98.8%) and females (98.5%).

A young girl dressed in traditional hijab garb worn by Muslim women.

As children age, school enrollment rates dramatically decrease and girls are much less likely to continue their education compared to their male counterparts. At the secondary level, female enrollment is only 48.7% and male enrollment is 58.5%.

A young women in Sambal.

Part of the reason you see secondary and post-secondary enrollment rates drop for girls is due to the tradition of early arranged marriages. Particularly in conservative rural communities child-brides are still a reality. Over the last 10 years, 18.2% of girls were married by age 15, and 47.4% were married by age 18.

A sign hanging over a school’s entryway.

At Mela Artisans we hope to assist our artisan families in overcoming these obstacles. In the worlds of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

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  • Esha Chhabra
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