Gifts With A Conscience

Posted: December 2, 2011

Make this festive season extra special by choosing some unique and interesting gifts made by NGOs and women’s support groups.

With Christmas and New Year around the corner, if you are busy filling up your shopping basket with gifts for friends and colleagues, do pause a moment and spare a thought to all the lovely merchandise that several NGOs produce during the festive seasons. Instead of gifting the ubiquitous diaries and planners you could make your gifting even more thoughtful by tying them to a deserving cause.

Make a child smile with your gift

Consider Akanksha, an organization that works on education for the underprivileged child, for little gift items with a conscience. Their Art For Akanksha programme runs design classes over the weekends from multiple locations with around 20 to 25 children in each class. From these classes emerge ‘The Great Artist Products’ which are easily giftable, affordable and attractive, suitable for both business associates as well as personal acquaintances. An interesting service Akanksha offers is mural painting, where talented children from Akanksha paint murals on walls—whether private residences or corporate organizations.

Another interesting NGO to support is Aarti Home which works with abandoned girl children, housing and educating them. (Read here the inspiring story of one such girl). Located in Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh, you can buy gift products from their shop, Lalitha, which works with underprivilegedwomen to create the products. On offer are bright and colourful playmats which can double as picnic mats as well as living room rugs. They accept bulk orders on request too.

Alternatively, check out Pratham Books, established in 2004, with the aim of ‘putting a book in every child’s hand’. Their range of wonderful children’s books in English as well as several regional languages would make ideal gifts to children of family and friends. What’s more, the profits from their sales go towards funding their reading program for kids!

Extend your support to underprivileged women

From Women’s India Trust (WIT), you could put together a delightfulhamper of homemade jams, marmalades, pickles, chutneys and squashes for someone who enjoys such things (and who doesn’t!). An interesting gift option could be from Conserve in Delhi, that helps poor women to convert discarded plastic bags into high fashion handbags, thereby not only creating an environmental solution but also employing and empowering over 300 women who have bleak employment opportunities. Conserve is an Indian non-profit that was founded in 1998; they employ poor women as rag pickers to scour the New Delhi waste dumps to collect discarded plastic bags and then amazingly, turn this trash into handbags.

The Gramshree Trust creates handmade products as part of theirempowerment projects which helps educate children and empower women tobe financially independent. They offer quilts, cushion covers,bedsheets and other soft linen products, scarves and stoles as well as bags and purses created with traditional craft skills).

The Godavari Delta Women Lace Cooperative helps women sell products such as table cloths, runners, bedspreads, handbags, wallhangings, pillow covers and laces. Not only does this initiative help women earn a living, it also educates them. Over 600 women work for this cooperative today.

From the world renowned women’s empowerment organization, SEWA, you can choose accessories like handmade bags and pouches, embroidered folders and kurtis as well as cushion covers, handmade quilted and patchwork bedsheets.

Gifts go green!

You can do your bit for the environment by patronising eco-friendly social enterprises such as Swechha. Their Green The Gap initiative reuses waste in innovative ways to produce funky handbags, clutches and pouches, while providing secure employment to disadvantaged people.

Earthy Goods is another social enterprise trying to help artisan and women’s groups from remote Indian villages reach urban markets with their highly natural products. Their motto is ‘Feel Good, Do Good’ and the goodies you can pick up from their Earth Store include personal accessories, corporate gifts, cosmetics, food items as well as home decor.

If you enjoy the pleasures of handmade crafts, then you will definitely think of A Hundred Hands as a worthy cause. On a mission to help those directly involved in the creation of handmade art, crafts and food, to earn a fair and sustainable livelihood from their work, they too offer a range of goods like ahimsa silk, ceramics, dhurries, stained glass, jewellery, garden ware and personal care items.

Another initiative worth supporting is Vanastree, a small collective dedicated to promoting forest garden biodiversity and food security through the conservation of traditional seeds. They offer a range of food products from their forest gardens as well as other items like natural kumkum, eco-detergents, bath scrubs, oils, quilts, saplings and seeds.

These are just a few options for you to consider while gifting -knowing that someone, somewhere is benefiting through your contribution.

Add more such worthy initiatives that you know of, in the comments below, so that we can create a longer list of causes that can be supported!

Pic credit: Akanksha

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