When Colleen Clines was a graduate student studying landscape architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, she visited India and worked with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that provided local sex workers with meaningful employment in the fashion and textile industry. In 2014, this grew into the Anchal Project, a non-profit clothing line dedicated to addressing the exploitation of women around the world through design, employment, creativity, and eco-friendly products.
The name, Anchal [pronounced on-chal] is the edge of a sari used to provide love & comfort to loved ones, a symbol of Anchal’s mission.
Out of an estimated 40 million commercial sex workers in the world, the United Nations estimates that 10 million of them are in India. 85% of Anchal artisans originally joined the commercial sex trade due to a lack of alternative options. Anchal believes that design and problem-solving can create positive social change in the world. By economically empowering these women, they believe that families, communities, and entire societies can be transformed.
Anchal uses a holistic model to address the diverse needs of each of their artisans, equipping them with resources and tools for sustainable employment, education, market access, design/skills training, and community. These programs offer alternatives to dangerous work, restoring women’s dignity, autonomy, and creativity.
In addition to addressing the global exploitation of women, Anchal’s programs confront the environmentally destructive effects of the textile industry. The rise of “fast fashion” has resulted in practices in the global textile industry that are harmful to both people and the environment.
The textile industry is the second largest polluter of the environment and is one of the most exploitative of human beings.
The harsh chemicals released during the industrial dyeing process contribute to the pollution of the air and water, corrupting ecosystems and people’s access to safe drinking water. In addition, the unethical labor and wage practices abundant in the global textile industry trap people in an endless cycle of poverty.
Anchal’s model seeks to provide innovative solutions. By using recycled materials and natural dyes, they are able to provide environmental change as well as social change. In fact, their passion for sustainability and women’s rights led them from India to the state of Kentucky where a very special project was born.
In 2014, the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky announced the “Lots of Possibility” competition which asked socially engaged citizens to imagine the possibilities for vacant lots around their city. Winners would receive one of those lots and a grant to help make their ideas a reality.
Anchal was one of the winners.
Their innovative idea was a garden of dye flowers that would rejuvenate the local eco-friendly textile industry in Louisville and provide meaningful employment for exploited women in the city.
This project became known as dyeScape, a city-wide network of gardens that not only provides an unexpected pop of color in their neighborhoods but also helps restore dignity to members of the community.
Anchal’s dyeScape program seeks to empower and educate women, revolutionize the wildly polluting textile industry, and transform communities. Since dyeScape’s beginning, they have serviced 19 women through workshop training and employed two survivors. Their goal is to employ 10 women by 2020.
They believe that by transforming Louisville’s vacant city lots into vibrant, colorful flower gardens, these dye sites will serve as the ground for educational workshops where community members can come together to learn about gardening, dyeing, and the environmental/human benefits of sustainable fashion practices. In addition, as a local branch of Anchal’s programs, dyeScape is addressing the sexual exploitation of women in Louisville.
Originally posted on dressember.org/blog