“In spite of having only an 8th grade education, I earn good money at Blue Mango. I am the main cutter and love it here.” Panchavarnam
Blue Mango gives priority to those who are physically challenged, widows and the economically disadvantaged. The concept of ownership is fundamentally embedded into our ethos. Except for the two office managers and the driver, all other positions of responsibility are held by women artisans who started as trainees and worked their way up. Rajakumari is our supervisor. Panchavarnam is our cutter. Suruliamma, is our trainer. Velmani teams with Tamar on designs. Muthukani works in quality control. Pitchaimani is our packer. Both of our office managers are physically challenged and have been with us for many years. As Blue Mango develops, the women themselves are taking a more active role in shaping our vision.
Fair Wages and Future Savings
“ I have pension and savings which really makes me feel good . I don’t have to depend on my father, I don’t have to depend on my brothers, and I won’t have to depend on my son when I am old. My neighbors say ‘not bad’. They have never seen an independent widow before.” Rajakumari
“The best thing about Blue Mango is the savings. I am disabled and have to think about the future. I add to my passbook every month and watch it grow. For this, I am really happy.” Kaliamma
Sustainable fair wages are contingent on consistent orders, marketable designs and competitive pricing. We recycle our profits back into Blue Mango, which enhances the lives of our artisans and their families.
The emphasis on savings is one of our signature features. Most of our women have never had a bank account, and are forced to rely on moneylenders for emergencies. This changes when they join Blue Mango. We offer a matching savings program and the money is put into individual fixed deposits with interest. All the artisans are enrolled in the Provident Fund program of the government. In addition, when the women have worked for five years, they are eligible for government pension.
Our motto is “Artisans First, Designs Follow.” Paying a fair wage drives the designing process. Products are developed so that our women can work efficiently and maximize their piece rates. At the same time, the designs need to keep up with the evolving trends and demands of a competitive local and international marketplace.
We follow these principles of design:
- Design with the artisan’s piece rates as non-negotiable
- Design so that prices are affordable
- Design to maximize consistency while keeping a handmade feel
- Design with simplicity and creativity
- Design with beautiful and high quality raw materials
- Design economically
- Design by recycling program waste whenever possible
The opportunity to save is an empowering experience and signifies a paradigm shift. Today, many of our women are encouraging their older children to start a savings account. Thus, the freedom which results from self-reliance passes on to the next generation.
Investing in Our Children
"I like the Tuition Center because my two girls are doing so much better in school. They have a small competition among themselves as to who can study the most. I make them close their books at 10 pm so they can go to bed." Nagarathinam
“My husband decided that we should move to Kerala, but then the boys were sobbing outside of the Tuition Center so he changed his mind.” Tamil Selvi
Blue Mango provides free child care for young children. We know that when young children are safe and happy, our women can breathe into the space of well-being.
The Tuition (Homework) Centre was started with funds in memory of Tamar’s father, who had always advised his three girls that the purpose of college was to teach us how to think critically, not just to accumulate facts.
Blue Mango women know well that education is the most important investment for their children’s future. The problem is they often can’t help their kids with homework since most of the mothers have had limited education themselves. Many homes lack electricity, leaving the kids to study at night by dim oil lamps. Parents become frustrated and children become discouraged when grades start to go down. Many of our women failed 10th grade because their English scores were too low, so they dropped out of school
The Tuition Centre is on the Blue Mango campus. Our bus picks up kids at designated points and then returns them home. In addition to studying for their regular classes, the kids get a chance to learn colloquial English and basic computer keyboarding skills. After high school, Blue Mango subsidizes college fees.
“During the hot season, I can’t wait to start work in the mornings. My little house is stuffy and full of mosquitos. . When the electricity goes off, our fans shut down. Blue Mango has a back up generator to run the fans, and many windows allow natural breezes to flow through.” Jansirani
Inspired by the architect Laurie Baker and designed for hot climates, our construction is simple, beautiful and low cost. Constructed with earthen bricks and terracotta tiles, our buildings blend naturally into our rural landscape. The workspace is open and well-ventilated with ample natural lighting. Women use the inner courtyard and arched porches for socializing and drinking tea together during their breaks.
We are conscious of environmental good practices. Food scraps are fed to the chickens. Our cardboards boxes for packing are all recycled. Most of our machines are treadle, relying on foot power instead of electricity. Our fabric scraps are reused for smaller items. Kitchen wastewater irrigates our coconut palms.
“I came to Blue Mango specifically because it provides free daycare for my two boys. I trust the child care provider and I love it that my children are given healthy food.” Durga
“I might have a thousand problems at home, but I don’t think of them here.” Rani
A sense of well-being is the heartbeat of Blue Mango. Transport is provided so the women can send their kids off to school and get home in time to cook the evening meal. Festivals are celebrated together and these cultural traditions help foster a sense of family. Benefits such as free primary health care for the artisans and their young children invoke a sense of goodness. Creating an atmosphere of emotional support and good health enhances joy and well being. At Blue Mango, safety in the workplace is important. Widows are protected because it is an all women’s program. Disabled women feel safe because they are treated with respect.