Blue Mango from India
"Everyone is proud of me! I am proud of me!" proclaims Surliamma, her family's main wage-earner since the death of her father in 2002. She overcame a hearing impairment and having only a 4th grade education to become a working artisan, thanks to the training and employment offered her at Blue Mango Trust.
Blue Mango has grown from four women with treadle sewing machines in an old silkworm shed to a successful, sustainable business run by and for marginalized women in southern India. The women undergo transformation, like the mango that has a blue tint before ripening to a sweet golden yellow. The use of recycled materials in their products symbolizes their ideals: to find usefulness in cast-off things.
All profits are reinvested to improve business and the quality of life of women like Panchavaranam, part of the Blue Mango "family," as she calls it, for over a decade. Widowed at 20 only to lose her newborn daughter to pneumonia a year later, Panchavaranam did not know where to turn. She found work and training at Blue Mango in 2005. "Decisions are based on our needs... they bought a bus because it was difficult to get to work; started free yoga classes because our bodies were tense from the machines. We were not eating well so they created a subsidized canteen for only 4 rupees a meal...In the midst of all my sadness, I have found some peace here."
Nagarathinum learned the value of education soon after her dad died. Dropping out of tenth grade, she worked the fields for years to care for her disabled mother and four siblings, eventually coming to Blue Mango. Now her daughters enjoy the Homework Center; her oldest dreams of becoming an engineer, perhaps by qualifying for scholarships Blue Mango awards to employees' children. "I just want my kids to get a good, steady job because life is too hard without one," she says.