In the World

Global Affairs students travel to India to generate economic opportunities for women and fund educational initiatives

Four Master of Arts in Global Affairs students traveled to India with a team of undergraduate business students during spring break to work on an innovative microenterprise project.

The Bandhwari Women’s project seeks to empower local women in a poor village near New Delhi by generating employment opportunities in the handicrafts sector. College of Business Teaching Professor David Wernick founded the project in 2016 with the help of the Incentive Foundation, a local nongovernmental organization (NGO), and FIU has been sending students to India on a regular basis ever since.

This year the 15 FIU students who received scholarships from the FIU Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) and the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs to help cover trip expenses partnered with a group of Indian business students from the Symbiosis Center for Management Studies to develop new products for the local market and marketing materials. This year’s new products were jewelry bags, scrunchies and beach blankets – all made from repurposed sari fabrics. The students sell the products on campus at FIU and local artisan markets and send most of the proceeds back to India to fund educational initiatives.

A first-year Global Affairs student, Samantha Fraga, offered the following reflections on the India trip.

“The profound impact this trip had on me is difficult to put into words,” she said. “During my week volunteering at the women’s center and in the local primary school, I was struck by the sense of love and community I witnessed. It was moving to see how content the locals are with so few resources. As a Global Affairs student, being able to experience the rawness and richness of Indian culture, learn firsthand about the country’s tremendous challenges and potential, and give something back to those in need added a whole new dimension to my studies.”

In addition to helping the women of Bandhwari design beautiful handicrafts for export, the students volunteered in the local primary school teaching English and math and engaging the children in learning games, arts and crafts, song and dance, and sports. Before their departure, the FIU students installed a volleyball net in the schoolyard and a basketball hoop and donated sporting goods.