Kantha is a type of embroidery traditionally made by rural women of the West Bengal region of India and parts of Bangladesh. Traditionally, families never discard old clothing, bed sheets, or other worn cotton materials. Women recycle this material and layer them using a kantha stitch to make bedspreads, wraps and light blankets for babies.

Baljit and Bahené

The Baljit and Bahené collective (translation: Baljit and Sisters; Baljit is the founder) have recreated the kantha quilt using layers of new saris that soften and become more rippled and comfortable after each wash. If you look closely, you'll see the collective's initials are embroidered on each quilt. The women quilt from home, and each project takes between 7 to 8 hours to complete.

Fair Trade and Empowerment

OM home's partnership with Baljit and Bahené was formed in collaboration with longtime family friend, Shamita Das Dasgupta, a prominent leader combating violence against women of South Asian descent. Dasgupta works with the collective, provides necessary supplies, and pays them directly for their work.

The women we work with are illiterate with little connection to the outside world. They range in age from 20 to 55 years and they live in Tilijala, Kolkata, a locality of the working poor. According to Dasgupta, "Their husbands controlled them economically and frequently stopped their children's schooling when there was a shortage of money in the family. None felt they had any control over their lives. Now, most are excited about making money, proud to send their children to school consistently, and they are speaking up about their husband's abuse. This is especially important to me as this is my life's work."

OM home pays them a fair wage at almost triple what they could earn in the local market. Working for the collective gives these women both a rare chance to earn, as they have little prospects for work outside the home, and spend money on their own terms. One woman took her children to visit her mother in Punjab, her first visit in 18 years. Another woman bought eyeglasses for her mother, while another bought her daughter a new uniform for school.

We hope their beautiful work speaks for itself, but we thought the story behind the product was important to share.

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