In 2010, Grace and Lottie, two design graduates who were working with Just Trade, went to Southern India to visit the Flowering Desert Project after being introduced through VIA Design. There were seven ladies in the project who were all trained in tailoring, but were struggling to find enough regular work and hindered by intermittent power supply. Grace and Lottie offered training in basic jewellery techniques using hand tools, therefore not requiring a reliable electricity source. The ladies picked up the techniques quickly, including beading, cutting, polishing and hammering, which they have now perfected.
Around half of the women who work in the production unit live in the Mahalir Aran Trust (MAT) safe house on site, which is a refuge for vulnerable women and children. The rest of the women come from the surrounding rural community where work opportunities are limited to unpredictable and irregular work in agriculture.
At Flowering Desert, the ladies work in a fair, safe and supportive environment. They work a shorter day, are given free transportation to work, counselling, healthcare, advice on money management and help with educating their children.
The training and fairly paid employment opportunities at Flowering Desert offer a way for the women to increase their skills and future work possibilities, often bringing them a status in their society for the first time. Since the initial jewellery training programme in 2010, over twenty additional women have been trained in order to keep up with our orders.