The upcycling of saris provides new opportunities for marginalised women in India and Bangladesh

The upcycling of sari fabric is providing new opportunities for marginalised women in India and Bangladesh, resulting in the creation of incredibly beautiful handmade bags, cushions, quilts and scarves. Sold by Shakti.ism, the range of items is increasing, reflecting the artisans' innovative, artistic style.

Thousands of saris are made every year. Brilliantly coloured and patterned, they are eventually thrown away when no longer needed. Recognising the potential recycling opportunities, Shakti.ism decided to take action by encouraging the development of a circular economy, upcycling saris into new products. This is slow fashion at its best, since not only are the stunning bags and home interior products reusing preloved fabrics, but they are providing work for women who might otherwise have little income. A women-led project, Shakti.ism aims to encourage women’s empowerment, helping marginalised communities across India and Bangladesh.

“We take preloved sari fabric and turn it into beautiful things, creating employment for artisans and breathing new life into used, unwanted fabric. These incredible women are from some of the most marginalised and outcast communities and face difficult circumstances. I also work with women at risk of violence and women who have survived sex trafficking. My company provides opportunities for these women to gain economic independence and self-confidence,” explains Jitna Bhagani, the founder of Shakti.ism.

A not-for-profit start-up business, Shakti.ism has only been trading just over one year but already, this social enterprise has made a considerable difference to many marginalised women. Over 3,100 hand-made items have been produced, creating over 5,000 hours of employment for artisan women. 10 marginalised women and girls living in South India have received specialist tailor training, fully funded by proceeds from the social business. In addition, the success of Shakti.ism has enabled over 10,500 compostable sanitary pads to be purchased for the artisans and their wider communities as well as a menstrual hygiene workshop.

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About Shakti.ism

Shakti.ism is a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers women from marginalised communities in India and Bangladesh, especially those at risk of being impacted by gender-based violence. Shakti.ism partners with grassroots NGOs and together we focus on marketing the womens' skills, of which they have many. We sponsor livelihood skills training, aiming to preserve local skills and traditions, and to empower women by providing fair meaningful employment and living wages. Proceeds from the business are reinvested into the artisans and their communities (examples include childcare, sanitary health supplies, professional sewing equipment, and social events). With our NGO partners, we ensure fair working conditions, safe supportive spaces, and encourage entrepreneurship to break the cycle of poverty. Shaktiism was founded by Jitna Bhagani. Jitna is a mum, social entrepreneur, the founder of she will survive (another passion project that advocates for women and girls).

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