What took me seconds to swipe over with a green paintbrush on the world map I painted for the literacy center took an hour of a bumpy and at times terrifying ride from the foothills of the Hilamayas into the faces of the mountains. We weren’t even close to the top, but still at times I had the feeling we were at the cusp of the world and all that was keeping me from a free fall to the bottom was the balance I’d acquired from our morning yoga sessions. The goats we encountered on our drive up the mountain seemed to be masters of this as they climbed up seemingly ninety-degree cliff faces.
I have climbed the Sierra Nevadas of Spain, the Appenninos of Italy, and just this spring, the Appalachians of our home country, but the stark monstrosity that is the Himalayas was something I have never experienced. A journey up one side of the monster, and we seemed to be on top of the world. The layer of smog and smoke over Dehra Dun looked like a surreal mist over the sprawling city nestled in a fold of the foothills. The quick incline from the rolling hills made it seem like we were just floating in the clouds over the city. Even more amazing than the view was the fact that after a while we started to encounter the villages of those that make these conditions their home. Little homes were perched just as precariously as the goats on the edges of the cliffs. The purpose of our excursion was to meet, speak with, and bring supplies to the women working for ANKURI that live in one of the mountain villages, Rikholi.
ANKURI is an organization promoting the long-term independence of village women through craft making. Through financial independence, they are able to gain agency in many other aspects of their life. Working for them is such an inviting and accommodating experience for the women. It allows them to dip their feet into the workforce and see what financial freedom tastes like. Many are inspired for their children to succeed even further, and for the kids they see how their mother is empowered by working. This initiative will help to foster an environment of independence in the village for the future generations as well.
The isolation of the community makes it even more difficult for women to hold a job. Their husbands are already traveling a distance to the tourist town of Missouri to work, which leaves the women at home. ANKURI is unique because the owner, Rachna, understands the wool must be brought to them. Barriers of transportation already bar them from other work, so with ANKURI they have one less challenge to being a working woman and supporting a family.
These women come from similar backgrounds, yet they are diverse individuals. However, many of the environmental factors working against them are similar. Abusive husbands, lack of safe job availability, cultural norms, families that have married them to husbands miles and miles away, and the pressure of caring for a family all impact the power they possess over themselves and their family. Knitting brings them together, and forms a community of powerful women.