For Seema Satish Chavan, one of the defining moments of her 36 years life has been the day her painstakingly hand crafted pouch was bought by a student from New Jersey. Born and raised in a small village four hours from Mumbai, Seema had never heard of New Jersey. But the purchase unlocked for her an opportunity she had only dreamt of till now - the ability to create something with her own hands and have that skill empower her financially. ‘After seeing the global world through Ohrna, I feel awakened', she says.
Ohrna is a story about people through products. In extraordinary efforts towards empowerment, our Makers strive hard for perfection.
Jyoti our studio assistant in Pune, was terrified to hold a scissor. She now confidently cuts fabric. She also enjoys drawing instructions on the village kits that replace written ones, empowering also those who cannot read. Jyoti is now her family’s main breadwinner.
Lonand and Mhaswad are rustic villages in Western India about 160 kilometers from Mumbai in Maharashtra state, and home to some of the women who make our handmade products. Small temples dot the landscape, their shikhar (steeple) painted in bright colors, arches welcoming visitors to each village, sugarcane fields, bullock-carts, schoolgirls on their very long walk to school and bright colored turbans, all distinguish the hilly and arid surroundings.
Hubli in neighbouring Karnataka state where we also work, about 250 miles from Bangalore, is characterized by coconut water vendors, jasmine flowers in women’s hair and rice flour decorations at the entrance to homes. Ohrna decided to set up a presence there after visiting women in Hubli, who enjoy embroidery and sewing, but are mostly homebound. They wished for opportunities to work from home, and Ohrna believes in enabling and empowering women to earn a living.
Our artisans from Lonand and Hubli belong to Manndeshi Foundation, an organization that promotes rural women entrepreneurship.
Ohrna has been enriched by its work with these rural women, many of whom are also farmers and feel a real connect with Mother Earth. Sharing not just work, but meals and experiences have led to some cherished bonding moments.
Ask Noorjehan Tehsildar, who enjoys Ohrna work a lot, how Ohrna has been transformational for her. “I love to do creative work, to learn new things. I want to do something, to be somebody’. "You come from so far to teach us, it feels very nice. I hope Ohrna grows, and I hope you can keep giving us work”, she adds.
Or Vishakha Balkrushna Desai, who works on her own schedule and puts away the entire amount she earns to buy gold ornaments for her daughters’ wedding.
That in essence is what inspires Ohrna. Hearing their stories you know that Ohrna is much more than an enterprise.
When asked what she did during her days off after the holiday rush, Jyoti said she was in the hills collecting firewood. And happily added that she collected enough for a month!
Ohrna salutes the spirit of these women.
Ohrna believes in responsible design. Our focus is use of sustainable materials, employment of rural women, preservation of rich craft traditions and packaging in up cycled materials.
We train for free and often employ women with minimum skills. We design to customers' needs and also constantly adapt our designs for ease of making, for our makers. Many of our artisans are from Mann Deshi Foundation.