A Brief History of the MBS Jewelry Centers
For those of you that are new to our work, here is some background info on Made By Survivors and on our Jewelry Centers in Calcutta, Mumbai and, coming soon – Darjeeling.
Made by Survivors was founded in 2005, to end slavery through economic empowerment and education, giving survivors and people at the highest risk the tools they need to build safe, independent, slavery-free lives. To accomplish that mission MBS
• Purchases and resells the goods made by survivors in shelters across the world.
• Builds safe homes for survivors of sex trafficking
• Established the Freedom School for educating children rescued from slavery.
• Sponsors the formal education of 150 children who were or parents were enslaved.
• Provides vocational training for survivors in shelters
• Provides business development help to survivors and shelters so they can create sustainable businesses
• Supports the economic livelihood of survivors who are now living independently.
Our newest endeavor has been the creation of jewelry centers in Mumbai and Kolkata in partnership with the Women’s Interlink Foundation and Rescue Foundation. Made by Survivors is providing hands on training in goldsmithing to survivors of sex trafficking. Check out these pieces the girls have created:
Launching the jewelry programs had many unexpected challenges, including business challenges - like getting the licenses necessary to export precious metal, choosing marketable designs, and finding suitable workspaces - and social work challenges - like how to enable girls who are repatriated to continue to work as jewelers, how to accommodate trainees who marry or start a family, and team building among a group of traumatized young women so that they support and help each other.
One of of our first and biggest challenges was finding a female trainer with expertise in cold-shop metalsmithing (not using a torch or smelt). Because metalsmithing in India has traditionally been done only by men, we were unable to find a trainer in India. Thankfully Dianna Badalament, a US artisan-goldsmith, volunteered to go over and teach the survivors. It wasn't easy, given the extreme heat, travel-related illnesses, and sometimes limited availability of tools and equipment, not to mention counseling the girls through their struggles to heal and recover from slavery and to rejoin society. Nonetheless, Dianna and the girls persevered, and after her most recent 6 month training trip, she felt the survivors were ready to go into production and begin earning a livelihood as jewelers.
Despite the 'bumps in the road', the survivors in these programs display creativity, increased self confidence, improved physical and mental health, and are moving forward in their lives. There are currently 50 survivors that have been trained in goldsmithing at the Made By Survivors Jewelry Centers in Mumbai and Kolkata.
The survivors are learning a trade that is highly profitable and making strides into a male dominated career. Goldsmithing is a career that not only provides a sustainable income, but also raises the status of women, not only for the survivor but for all women in India.
In the upcoming year Made By Survivors will expand the jewelry center program to a new center in Jalpaiguri, West Bengal. Jalpaiguri is a border town (view blog about border towns here) with high incidences of human trafficking. In partnership with Women’s Interlink Foundation, Made By Survivors will build a shelter for survivors, establish a jewelry center, and create multi-faceted vocational programs for survivors of human trafficking and at risk women and youth who are susceptible to human trafficking. Please sign up for our mailing list to stay up to date on the progress of the Jalpaiguri Jewelry Center.