By giving a voice to the artisans, Madhu has become an advocate for female craftsmanship around the world. She always presses the importance of seeing beyond the care label on our clothing to the human behind each garment, and The Saheli Women’s collective highlights the change that can be made when we truly feel the presence of the creators behind our clothes. When I travelled out to Bhikamkor to spend some time with the women involved in the beautiful initiative, I interviewed Madhu her about her journey with the group, her ideas about the future of fashion and the importance of sharing stories.
Dear Madhu, can you tell me how you started out and why you decided to set up the Institute for Philanthropy and Humanitarian Development?
I always hoped to go into social work one day, but I was born into a very traditional family where women either stay at home or they become engineers, doctors or teachers. My marriage was arrnged when I was 23 years old and I was supposed to stay at home as a housewife; but after doing this for a few years, I started to raise my voice. People called me rebellious but for me, the journey started there and slowly I started breaking cultural norms.
I started by working as a teacher, but my calling towards social work was very strong and to fulfil that, I left my school job and joined a non-profit organisation where I worked for six years. In 2014, I went to UC Berkeley and completed a diploma course in social welfare. When I came back, I founded the Institute for Philanthropy and Humanitarian Development and began by working with victims of sex trafficking in the slums of Jodhpur. However, after a year I realized that it was so difficult to track progress, as just a few women would return to us more than once. I really wanted make impact on people's lives through my work and for this reason, I relocated to the village of Bhikamkor in 2015 and began IPHD as we know it today.