Clothes With A Conscience
Clothes With A Conscience
  • Home/
  • SETU Society, A Bridge Between International Market And The Artisans

SETU Society, A Bridge Between International Market And The Artisans

SETU in Sanskrit means the bridge. Standing true to its name, SETU (Society For Empowerment and Trade Upliftment of artisans), a non-profit society has become a bridge between the international market and the artisans. They promote economic, social, and environmental sustainability while ensuring workers can earn a livelihood. Many of you would recall how your mother or grandmother would barter old clothes for new utensils. That's where SETU sources old sarees, through a traditional barter system or scraps from the market and export houses. Following a zero-waste process, even the smallest scrap is used in making a product.

Talking about the principles of SETU Society, Rashmi Dhariwal, Co-Founder, SETU said,

We have various principles. First, to uplift underprivileged artisans and minorities with a special focus on women's empowerment. Eradicating child labour through education is another key principle, with emphasis on educating the girl child. We work towards environmental sustainability. We create those products that would generate higher revenues for the artisans while ensuring their health and safety in making those products. We choose raw materials that are environmentally friendly till the last strand. Keeping these measures in mind, we create products and use the profit for developmental projects. This is our self-sustainable model. We don't depend on any grants as our aim is to ensure that everyone becomes self-sustainable.

SETU has helped several women break the shackles of patriarchy to step into a new future. Talking about the same, Ms Dhariwal said,

The toughest part is winning the trust of our beneficiaries. Even if I were to offer free education to women in the slums, they wouldn't come forward to study. On the contrary, they may question how it would benefit them. If we wish women to step out of their comfort zones and join the workforce, we need to create role models for them. This part is quite challenging. If we create a training programme for a group of ten women, only two may use it to do something and change their life. But that too will be sufficient enough for us to accomplish our target. That's because in the future when those two women will start earning and contributing to the family income, their daughters will go to school or they will wear better clothes. This way they will be looked up to as role models by the other women. This part of earning the trust of our beneficaries has now become easy for us as we have built a name for ourselves. The success stories of the self-help groups we have created have now begun to spread far and wide. 

SETU has created a safe space for women. Many women working at SETU have been survivors of abuse. SETU has equipped them with not just livelihood skills but life skills like education to make them self-sufficient and independent.

There are many women who are illiterate. We educate them to the extent that they are able to read a newspaper, stay updated on happenings, manage the accounts and be aware of their rights. We make them capable to this extent, said Ms Dhariwal.

Anjana Jain works as a trainer at SETU and gives computer training to women and children. Talking from her experience, she said,

There were some women who could not even read or write. In the beginning, teaching them had its own course of problems. It was tough to make them sit in a place and learn. They were shy and didn't think they will be able to cope up. At other times their attention was diverted to the cries of their small children. Yet these ladies persisted and took interest. Then slowly but steadily, they grew from reading paragraphs in a book to now a newspaper.

Radha Sharma works as a supervisor at SETU. Her primary role is to train women on how to make different products. She said,

I am financially independent in taking care of my expenses and also my children's education. I do not have to ask anyone for money.

Ranita Devi, one of the artisans at SETU is also working towards financial independence and educating her children. She said,

I came here to earn money. My husband and I, both work so that we can educate our children. We are working to remain financially independent. We do not have to ask anyone for money.

Ms Dhariwal highlighted the increase in consumerism and the need to follow 3Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle. She said,

Everyone is aware of the climate situation these days. There is only one solution- reduce, reuse, and recycle. There is an excess of consumption as everyone wants new clothes. Hoarding has become a habit. It is very important to recycle with this increase in consumerism. Thus, we will have to recycle old products and work on reducing consumerism.

A model promoting economic, social, and environmental sustainability. That's why SETU is a great example of "clothes with a conscience".

Share this story on