a win win situation: socially responsible business
Rice fields, bright saris, fresh mangoes, bicycle rickshaws, and marigold malas, remind me of the sights and sounds of my time spent in Janakpur. This is a historical city 20 km from the Indian border, at the base of the Himalayas in Southern Nepal. A city which is famous for its sacred temples, colorful paintings, and holy ponds.
A few years back, I founded “annie O”, a socially responsible business which supports remote artisan cooperatives, leading me to beautiful places such as Nepal. I work directly with artisans groups, to create more modern accessories, inspired by traditional techniques. The goal is to empower these female artisan groups, create financial independence, and sustain traditional art.
This past spring, I pursued my love for adventure and explored the rich artisan world within Nepal. It rejuvenated my spirit and reminded me why I do what I do and that I truly love it. Throughout my journey, I was stationed in Kathmandu, yet traveled extensively by motorbike and bus throughout the country, connecting with various women run cooperatives.
A special connection was made in Janakpur, working with the Janakpur Women’s Development Center(JWDC). Upon my visit, the women welcomed me with open arms and were excited by my new design ideas, which merge traditional style with a contemporary feel. The center allowed for new ideas to flow and inspired me to work in all departments, including ceramics, sewing, silk screening, and painting.
I started out with the idea to create hand painted bangles, and left with a collection of 100% natural cotton silk-screened handbags, hand stitched coin purses and hand painted journals. I was inspired by the women’s creativity and loved the bright colors and unique style, which all the women have grown to develop. They live with so many struggles but create a truly colorful world within their imagination. You walk in the center and their warmth truly touches your soul. I felt at home.
It is a foundation such as this, which has preserved ancient Maithil paintings, rooted in traditions, which women have passed down for generations. Thanks to the generosity from various donors and small grants, the JWDC has grown and flourished over the decade and has made Janakpur famous for its colorful paintings on paper.
As the center was founded, the chosen women artists traveled from their villages to the center of Janakpur to learn and develop their skills in composition, color and line. At that time, this was a huge step forward, seeing these women come from a culture that prohibits women leaving their homes or speaking to strangers. This opened a new world for these women, seeing most of them are illiterate and had never taken part in any kind of organization.
It has been a lot of work and effort, but it has been my business which has allowed me to fulfill my sense of adventure as well as my conscious to do good in this world. The goal is to create a win win situation and I feel it is working.