The timing couldn’t have been worse. Or so it appeared. The signs were all wrong. There was a huge red signal blinking in front of our faces, and all around really. The world was shutting down, and nobody was going to be needing anything remotely like a bag, or a belt, or a wallet for the foreseeable future. But the ball had already started rolling, foundation had already been set, years of work was coming to fruition (apparently at the worst possible time), women had been hired, nurtured, and trained and we were not about to slam the brakes on their hard work or livelihoods. That would have been the opposite of what Vertara was created to do.
Even when the universe seemingly told us to stop, to shelter, to wait until everything was calm again – we decided it was time to stand tall. We adapted to this new world and launched Vertara.
Gender inequality: a pandemic within the pandemic.
When the world is suffering a pandemic that threatens to wipe out lives, there are those that suffer as much by living. Women. Covid-19 has brought to fore all sorts of pre-existing inequalities in society: social, economic, political. A loomingly large inequality (by virtue of both sheer numbers and the gaping divide) is gender inequality, pronouncing it a pandemic within the pandemic.
Disparities and bias against women come to the forefront
There has been an exponential increase in domestic abuse because women are now being quarantined with their abusers with no escape or respite. Globally. women in the unorganized sectors are economically hit in larger numbers simply because they form the majority of that sector, most of them also being primary bread winners for their families. A bulk of essential workers like nurses, are women, who besides having to be on the frontline, often do not receive the support they require to do their jobs in safety for reasons such as mid-sized PPE suits which are, no surprise, designed primarily for men. The decision makers on pandemic control are mostly men leading to sub-optimal decisions such as this, for a range of reasons including lack of knowledge and gender insensitivity.
There is also the classic gender imbalance at home, accentuated now with women taking on bulk or all of the unpaid work like household chores, besides having to keep their regular work-from-home jobs, but also having to manage childcare with children staying home at all times. This becomes even worse for single moms. In the United States, 21% of children come from homes with a single mom. The statistics don’t make the situation any prettier.
We are probably repeating things you already know, but these things have to be said over and over again. Until they never have to be said again.
Vertara: Birthed by Empowered Women. Born to Empower Women
We have a way of looking at things at Vertara – where the bag is half full. (Yes, we prefer bags to glasses, obviously.) So if you ask us if Covid 19 is a sign, we will say ‘Yes’. It is a good sign. It is when things come to the forefront so that you can look them in the eye, no matter how ugly they are, acknowledge they exist, and make an honest attempt at eradicating them.
Vertara is a bold step in this direction. Created by women, for women, Vertara enhances the lives of women artisans in India who earn a fair wage in a safe and positive facility that employs grassroots artisans with stable payroll and benefits, rather than temporary work contracts: which is the norm in the handmade leather goods industry (an industry that has traditionally been male dominated).
Perhaps the time has come for the world to sit up and take notice at how deep and dark gender inequality really is. Perhaps the time has come for disease to exit the system: disease of the body, disease of the mind, disease in society. Perhaps the time has come for parity to prevail.
And what good would anyone be if they cannot stand up and show themselves at a time when what they stand for needs them the most?
We are anyone. We are Vertara. A small entity in the grand scheme of things. We take small steps like pledge 40% of our proceeds for Community Response and Recovery for Covid-19. And we will continue to contribute our droplets (not a Covid pun) until the ocean is full.
We are Vertara. We were birthed by empowered women, and are born to empower women. And what better time for us to be born than 2020?