Ponnani is not in a tourist area of Kerala, and so there is very little work other than agriculture and fishing. Ponnani is an ancient port and coastal town and as such has contributed to the trade and economy of Malabar from very early times.
In Ponnani, the female population is 52%, slightly higher than the all-India average, making this employment even more vital.
In January 2011, a small group of women in Ponnani, Kerala, were facing a difficult future with no work, but with help from Kerala Crafts, have set up a small shop named 'SHE'S', to sell women’s clothing, together with a stitching facility. Shyni, who manages the shop, was anxious about the future for her and her family, as her husband had been diagnosed with a serious illness and is unable to work.
'She's' is now celebrating its 10th birthday - and is well established in the local community with a good reputation for fine stitching and customer service.
The small group of skilled women who work there, provide much-needed help for their families, as well as providing an essential support network for each other. Most have had to deal with great suffering in their lives, but the family atmosphere of the project, has helped them get through the difficult times.
Help and support during covid has been vital, and Shyni says 'We are going through a difficult period. It is not at all easy for me. I do worry about my unwell husband ........ We are all staying strong and hoping everything will be back to normal soon'.
Up until March 2023, when not selling or stitching for local customers, the ladies made fair trade knickers and pyjamas for us. However, in the last year, sales in the UK have plummeted as the UK economy has taken a nose dive and UK prices have sky rocketed.
As most of our sales were to UK customers, our sales have virtually collapsed.
Therefore, as much as we had hoped to keep these skilled ladies, led by Shyni in work, this has become unsustainable. There is little point in giving them more orders if we can't sell their products here. It is a sad time - but we will continue to pay the rent on their workshop and shop in Ponnani, which means that they will be able to continue with local work and be a sustainable business in Kerala.
We know that our support over the last ten years has made a considerable difference to these ladies, and we will continue to help where we can, and will always be in touch.