Innovation That Matters

Sirohi produces luxury, sustainable fabrics | Photo source Sirohi

Indian nonprofit improves women’s lives through sustainable craft skills

Work & Lifestyle

Sirohi makes luxury sustainable products from textile and plastic waste while helping local women become financially independent

Spotted: Gauri Gopal Agrawal originally founded the Skilled Samaritan Foundation in 2012, in order to help to install lighting and electricity in rural villages. But while doing this, she also discovered that women living in these areas were often skilled in making traditional crafts from materials that were usually thrown away, but they lacked the opportunity to sell their work. Accordingly, she turned the Foundation’s focus to helping them, founding the brand Sirohi.

Sirohi is a luxury, sustainable brand, the products of which are made using materials such as textile waste, industrial plastic waste and local fibres. It also aims to help women to become financially independent. This has, at times, been an uphill battle. For example, when trying to find someone skilled in the charpai style of weaving, Agrawal found that many women were reluctant to work for money, as it was frowned upon in their communities. She finally found one woman willing to do the work, which encouraged others, and now they have 200 women working with them.

All of the women who work with Sirohi are trained by an in-house team, using support from designers in India and the UK. Training includes not only how to design and create new products, but financial literacy, ensuring that each craftsperson knows exactly how much their products sell for. For new designs, Sirohi may train a master craftswoman, and she teaches the rest. Teaching is often conducted through WhatsApp video calls and YouTube videos, to avoid the need for travel.

Agrawal has created a system that allows women to become financially independent by working around the barriers they face. She points out that despite the fact that most of the women lack education, “the other barriers like social-economic aspects don’t matter anymore. And they can continue working in their home space comfortably. My mom now heads cluster management for almost 200 women who work with us. She’s also financially independent now.”

Although a nonprofit, Sirohi is not alone in focusing on how waste can be reused to make new products. At Springwise, we have recently covered for-profit companies that are using waste in innovative ways, including making shoes out of dog hair and mushrooms and upcycling old aeroplanes as architectural components.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Explore more: Work & Lifestyle Innovations | Sustainability Innovations



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