Guest Author: Diwia Thomas
Two years ago, during the economic crisis that swept over world economies, I encountered many women, in my very own social circles, who found it difficult to keep the home fires burning. Their stories were all different- husband’s who lost their jobs, businesses that had to be shut down due to non-viability, sudden disease that struck the sole breadwinner of the family, etc. Whatever the story, the effect was the same. I felt a strong urge to help them out.
Collecting newspaper from my kith and kin, I taught these women the basics of making a newspaper bag, found customers to buy them and PaperTrail was blazing its own trail.
The focus was to put enough money in their hands to ensure food on the table-every single day. The newspaper was donated, hence the main raw material was free, we only had to purchase flour to make the glue and jute string (which is the cheapest in India). This ensured that almost 80% of the price of the bag could be paid as wages to the lady who made it. The rest is spent on material, packaging and transport.
Larger orders came in, newer customers and more women joined too. We now produce close to 4000 bags a month and every lady takes home a minimum of Rs 2500/- (which in India puts 3 nutritious meals on the table everyday).
We also began to produce special order bags from handmade paper. At Christmas time, this paper is sent to schools for children with multiple disabilities to make gift tags, which are always a sell out.
Today PaperTrail is a vast network of newspaper donors, bag makers and customers.
Coordinating PaperTrail, its women and managing its supply chain has indeed been a fulfilling and rewarding experience.