Healed and Rising Up: Introducing our Latest Partnership in India
This season, we are excited to introduce a great new artisan group that is providing employment for some of India’s most stigmatized individuals—people who have suffered from leprosy, also known as Hansen’s Disease. At the Little Flower village in Bihar, India, 225 people whose lives have been affected by leprosy live and work. They own their own homes and receive free schooling for their children and free healthcare to help them manage the effects of the disease. 40 of the artisans in the village are weavers who create incredible woven scarves from brightly colored silk, while others earn an income by caring for livestock, making shoes, or serving at the village hospital, among other vocations.
Because many people do not have an understanding of leprosy, we wanted to share some important facts about the disease and about the talented survivors who create our pieces in India.
- We are happy to be able to use past tense when describing the disease these artisans have survived: all of the residents of the village have been treated for the disease, which means that the bacteria have left their systems and they no are no longer contagious. Treatment lasts from six months to a year depending on the variety of the illness, but after the first dose, patients are no longer contagious.
- If a person has suffered nerve damage during their illness, they will not regain sensitivity in those areas. Because of this, many leprosy survivors who have been physically deformed by the disease are still ostracized from their communities or feel shame because of their appearances.
- The disease can only be transferred through prolonged personal contact with a person who is not undergoing treatment for leprosy. The bacteria that causes leprosy cannot survive outside the body, so there is no risk of contracting the disease through contact with a piece of jewelry or a scarf that a person with leprosy has made.
- 54% of leprosy cases in the world occur in India and it is estimated that at least three million people around the world are continuing to live with the long-term effects of leprosy.
The artisans who live and work in this special village have not only gained reliable employment; they also have a community that sees them as human, looking past any scars they may bear as leprosy survivors. Some of those who live in the village have even gained the confidence to seek work outside of Little Flower, but still choose to live in the village with their families because of the inclusive and non-judgmental atmosphere that pervades the compound. The weavers we purchase from have been able to rise above their circumstances and have become people who are first known for their talent and skill with a loom, rather than their medical history.
The silk these artisans use to create our multi-colored Himalayan Scarf is harvested in a special way. Unlike most silk production, the process at Little Flower involves allowing the moths to emerge from their cocoons naturally. This gives the silk a raw, less processed feel than typical silk because the moths create little abrasions in the silk fibers as they emerge. We love that at every step, these artisans take care to consider their impact on the environment and on other living things. It’s just one more detail that makes this handmade scarf a unique work of art.
We can’t wait for our Himalayan Scarf to go live just in time for fall! Contact your local Ambassador to experience it in person at a trunk show starting August 7th.