There’s something incredibly special about India. I’m not sure I could ever pin-point exactly what that something is, but it’s somewhere in between the welcoming people, diverse spiritualities, intense colors and overwhelming assault on the senses (in a good way).
Working with the Impact Assessment Team, our group had the unique opportunity to visit six different projects with previous Foster MBA students and SEWA collaborations. We interviewed managers and experienced how SEWA provides employment for women in the RUDI agricultural project, the Gitanjali waste-picker and recycling project, the Hariyali cookstove and renewable energy project, the Manager Ni School resource centers, the Rachaita construction project and the Trade Facilitation Center.
One of my biggest takeaways from the entire trip is the unbelievable strength of SEWA members. The organization has 1.7 million female members and although we only met a small percentage, every woman we met was full of determination, willpower and incredible physical and emotional strength. One clear example is our day with the Rachaita project. I can only imagine the daily struggles some of the women go through, but to witness a female construction project brought my amazement to a whole new level. We saw women building a seven-story building, which called for carrying bags of cement up and down stairs, piling bricks on top of their heads, mixing cement and all-around hard physical labor in warm and humid climates. After watching women half my size (I’m average size in Seattle) fling cement bags up and over their bodies, Justin and I decided to see just how heavy a bag weighed. While we have no scientific measurement, the two of us could only lift a bag about an inch, if that, off the ground! The physical strength is without a doubt impressive, but what lies beneath is the incredible determination to increase the quality of lives for their families. Many women had their children with them, some who were sleeping in makeshift hammocks, while others were trying to help their mothers. The obvious love for their family welfare gives them this strength, physically and emotionally, that I have only seen in developing countries. Witnessing this unbelievable strength is simplistically beautiful, motivating and humbling.