Sharing a global sisterhood

Didi Society spreads international trade and understanding

Julia Norman is slowly making a difference in the world.

One person at a time, she hopes to improve the lives of women in India and to increase global awareness at home in Victoria.

Norman was in India working on her practicum for her master’s degree from the University of the Basque Country in Spain when she came across two women close to her age that inspired her.

“One had just finished her degree in business and the other had just finished her degree in social work,” said Norman, 26.

“They were both educated young women who had returned to their own villages after school to start projects. It was inspiring and I was drawn to them.”

Both women had started their own co-operatives, working with small groups of other women making handicrafts.

“These women didn’t have any way to market their handmade items. By working co-operatively with them we are able to help them sell their products. This not only empowers them, but provides a tangible way for them to improve their lives and the lives of their families,” she said.

Norman started a  non-profit group and called it the Didi Society. “Didi means sister in Hindi – respected elder sister,” she explained.

With a group of four friends, she formed a board of directors and began building partnerships with the Shram and Arya Ashram co-ops in India and the Naibor co-op in Kenya.

The Didi Society was formed as a non-profit society in April 2011 and began selling the handmade items online and at local farmers markets. The profits are returned to the co-operatives and used for education.

The society works with local schools to bring the educational component to its undertaking.

“It’s about being face-to-face with the community, talking to people at the markets, doing outreach and education at schools,” Norman said.

The Didi Society is working with students at Ecole Victor Brodeur, creating a community event on Feb. 20. “It’s a youth conference on social justice. We’re inviting youth from other schools to come and discuss social justice issues, share their experiences with social justice and come up with some ideas around social justice,” said Norman.

The society’s mission is to bring positive change to the world based on justice, equality and fairness. It empowers women and aims at improving the lives of women and children worldwide through direct, just trade. The society also works to increase education and awareness of the challenges and issues facing women and children around the globe.

“Eighty-six per cent of the people in India live on less than $2 a day, so selling these

handicrafts really helps these women make better lives for themselves and their families,” Norman said.

Find handicrafts online at http://thedidisociety.weebly.com.