International Women’s Day Interview: Ami Shroff


Name: Ami Shroff
Age: 48
City: Mumbai
Occupation: Trustee, Shrujan and Founder,
Living and Learning Design Center

ST: Please tell us briefly about you.

Ami: From
summer training at NGOs to working as an intern with an agro company in the
borderline region of Kutch, I have had a varied journey before I formally
joined Shrujan in 1998. I initially joined the family trust run, not for profit
organization, Shrujan, as a project coordinator in Kutch to work at the
grassroots level and also lead the “Design Center on Wheels” project for the
organization, the first of its kind and scale in India. In fact it was her deep
involvement and commitment for the operations at Shrujan Trust that led to the
genesis of the first of its kind research and documentation project in the
Kutch region called “Pride and Enterprise” which documented and researched the
embroidery craft story of the Kutch region. This initiative went on to win
the Rolex Awards in 2006 for Chandaben Shroff, the founder of Shrujan, and
also my mother. 
I have taken forward my mother’s vision and championed yet another successful
project under the Shrujan Trust ambit, the Living and Learning Design Center
(LLDC). This ambitious project has been launched in a 9 acre green campus in
Bhuj, with an ambition of becoming an inclusive hub for all crafts within the
Kutch region, creating a collaborative environment that not only enables but
also empowers. 
campus at LLDC also houses’ India’s largest ‘Crafts Museum’ that is comparable
to any international museum of high caliber both in terms of collection and
presentation capabilities. I intend to build profile for the LLDC as a melting
pot for craft enthusiasts and craft experts from all over the world, and also a
place where anyone, from any background can be empowered with the power of
creativity and art. 
ST: Who is a woman that inspires you the most
and why?

Ami: Starting an ambitious venture in India half a
century back, which would bring about social change, and a sense of self
awareness in village artisans, that too womenfolk, was an ambitious dream, to
state it mildly. My mother Chanda Shroff had the vision & the grit to make
it a reality by starting Shrujan with just 30 women in its fold and building it
into the giant Shrujan is today with 4000 plus women it currently supports.
think I can safely say she is my inspiration to have a vision for the future
and a satisfying answer to “What is the purpose of my efforts today”. My dream
project LLDC, Living & Learning Design Centre is an extension to preserve
& nurture this very vision of her’s for posterity.

ST: How are you celebrating this year’s
International Women’s Day?

Ami: To me, it’s not so
much about a date, although I think it’s nice to stop and think about the
qualities & relationships we often forget to celebrate. Flagging a day for
the specific purpose certainly helps us to be more mindful or more expressive.

But more importantly
for me International Women’s Day is mindfully bringing to the fore an awareness
of what qualities makes women special; the core strength, the inherent ability
to nurture, the creativity,  the
emotional intelligence needed to grapple with layered emotions- I think these
qualities are very unique to women. The downside of being a woman, probably
because of societal patterns or lack of opportunities in education &
employment- is the over whelming tendency to disbelieve in their own potential.
I think it is a prevalent emotion in women of all classes. 

So,to me, celebrating
women’s day will be to mindfully& sincerelymake every woman I interact with,
aware of how incredibly special a creation she is, just as she is.

ST: What is the most important message you want
to send out to all the women around the world on this occasion?

Ami: Again, to believe in themselves. To strive for
self worth. To bring magnificent human qualities from seemingly ordinary lives.

The work that we do at Shrujan, while
objectively it involves training & educating the craftswomen alongside
preserving & enhancing traditional heritage of Kutch crafts,  subjectively the efforts are directed towards
individuals becoming aware of their inherent self worth &to be able to live
with dignity.

To draw forth a sense of value from deep within
your own life, not from what size dress fits you, whether someone has agreed to
take you for a romantic partner, or how fat your pay check is, that must be the
quest for women.

ST: What according to you is ‘women

Ami: Empowerment to me is
the ability to treasure one’s own life. The feeling of “I can do it”.

For instance, at Shrujan
we create a platform with opportunities & recognition which enableswomen to
feel empowered &bring forward their own sense of self-worth. It isn’t
something we are giving them, it is something Shrujan is helping them find from
right within their own lives, through their own efforts & hard work.

By giving shape and
form to their art, the craftswomen at Shrujan are creating their own space
which is rewarding commercially, creatively and binding them closer to their
roots, instilling in them a sense of pride & “I can do it”.

ST: What would you say are the main challenges
facing women at present in India?

Ami: Women in India are certainly making great
strides. But unfortunately this growth is not across the board. We cannot
ignore the reality that women in rural India are still virtually untouched with
any sense of empowerment as we know it.

It isn’t easy to break through the traditional
moulds despite the break neck speed the outside world seems to practically be
exploding at.

There is still
disparity in education & domestic violence remains an ugly truth in all
sections of society. Child marriage, malnutrition, dependence for sustenance
owing to lack of education; the problems are still many despite the growth in
technology & intelligence.
Empowerment at the
grass root level is an absolute must, it is the need of the hour.

ST: Where do you want to see yourself in next 5

Ami: I see myself right
here; Helping Shrujan expand in its capacity, outreach &efficiency.

We are already
heading towards adding capability by way of our upcoming Crafts School programs
at the Living and Learning Design Center. We are also actively collaborating
with designers to work with our craftswomen at Shrujan to bring their authentic
work on global and national platforms. As we go along, the intention is to add
to the variety of the Kutch crafts taught and displayed here & also to
enhance expertise & increase awareness of these products and their history.

I see the passion
& craftsmanship coming out of Shrujan to reach a
global audience in the coming years &the spirit of the Kutchi craftswomen
to be stories of inspiration & empowerment.

I also envision the
coming years to bring better processes, better supply chain efficiency,
supportive government schemes & most importantly- better implementation of
these schemes to give a meaningful thrust to the handicraft sector.

Ami Shroff