Quality of Life Improvement Society (QUALIS) is a registered non-governmental organization (NGO) that Mrs. Deepa Mathur, a former news personality and lifelong humanitarian and business entrepreneur, established in 2007. Mrs. Mathur developed the idea to create QUALIS as a result of her frequent interactions with female artisans, who form the backbone of Rajasthan’s artisan industry, while running her private exporting business, Saarvantam Exports, which sells ready-made clothing, handlooms, and home furnishings. While talking with artisans, many asked her to help them with their business and personal problems; these problems included their obstacles to business success, a troubled marriage, and limited access to education and healthcare for themselves and their children. At first, Mrs. Mathur informally assisted these women by asking her professional friends (e.g., teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc.) to help them. But then she decided that it was necessary to create a formal organization so that she could provide sustainable assistance to a larger number of artisans. Although QUALIS’s headquarters is based in Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital, QUALIS currently works with approximately 2,000 female artisans in Jaipur City, Kalwara, Bagru, and Jodhpur. Thus, despite the broadness that QUALIS’s name suggests, QUALIS’s main objective is to help female artisans and their children who live in often challenging conditions in rural and urban Rajasthan. Prior to their involvement with QUALIS, many of these women had little or no employment or vocational skills and were forced to beg on the streets. This main objective to help female artisans and their families can be further divided into three sub-goals:
- to economically empower indigent female artisans and weavers;
- to celebrate, preserve, and revive their craft;
- to provide educational trainings (e.g., the RANG Project) and resources (e.g., notebooks and pens) to artisans’ children.
QUALIS executes these three goals through its various training programs, which target female artisans and their children, and by providing them with access to healthcare and legal aid. For example, Skill Yourself is a project that teaches female artisans skills including embroidery, handicraft, weaving, block printing, and mosaic glass work while the RUNG Project is an educational program that teaches artisans’ children healthy nutrition and hygiene habits. All trainings are free and evidence-based, which is to say that they are based on the artisans stated needs, which are gleaned through surveys that QUALIS’s fieldworkers conduct. Additionally, QUALIS provides sexual harassment awareness trainings to female artisans and various local and foreign student groups and actively strives to eradicate the practice of child marriage through its Child Marriage Awareness Program. Core QUALIS Team members and local and foreign volunteers donate their time to help keep these programs running. QUALIS maintains its operations through local private and government grants and through profits gained from Studio Fair Trade, its sister organization that promotes and sells female artisans’ products.
QUALIS believes that by economically empowering female artisans, they will be able to enhance their social standing in and outside the home. However, their husbands, children, and communities benefit, too, because they interact with an empowered women who earns an income and has control over life decisions. Furthermore, seeing women with these abilities helps challenge and change the patriarchal mentality that contributes to women’s subordination and female artisans’ challenging life conditions. Moreover, QUALIS believes that through its and communities’ efforts women’s status is and will continue to be improved, for it ultimately envisions a society where men, women, and all people are treated equally irrespective of their gender, class, caste, religion, or other social factors.