“If there’s one message I’d like other women in India or across the world to hear it’s that nothing is impossible. Even when circumstances are entirely unfavourable, go ahead and put in your efforts and do your best. If you have the desire to do something, you’ll find that the universe will help you get what you want,” says Shabnam Tantray, co-founder of Tent Jewelry.In 2013, Shabnam met the founders of K.E.Co and received initial funding and consent to relaunch Tent Jewelry and is fulfilling her personal passion for designing contemporary jewellery. She is looking forward to setting up a store and an online website to establish the business soon.
Shabnam’s recent stall at the Worli Festival (Mumbai) was well received. She`s hosting exhibitions and workshops while collaborating with others who want to work with her from Rajasthan as well as the US. “Any woman who is willing to be trained in the art of jewellery making is welcome to work with me and earn 30% of the overall price via sales,” she states. Additionally, five percent of the sale value of each product is directed towards NGOs and women’s self-help groups which are involved with improving the lives of women in Kashmir and rural India. Before working on Tent Jewelry, Shabnam worked with NGOs in Kashmir and Mumbai and has a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Mumbai.
“It’s very important to do what you believe in and stand up for your values. Essentially, Tent Jewelry is by women and for women and is a sustainable platform for my vision of empowering women. For me, it’s more about reaching out to real women with stories and connecting with them no matter which part of India they happen to live in,” she reveals. Her own life has encompassed two very different realities spanning both Kashmir and Mumbai geographically, and tragedy and triumph personally.
Shabnam grew up in Kashmir and moved to Mumbai at the age of 14 to pursue higher education. In 2006, she lost her father suddenly in an attack by militants which left her and her family devastated. “At that point I felt like it was the end of the world. He meant everything to us,” she recalls. Her father was an engineer at the Power department. He was also a humanitarian who ran a school in Srinagar, and had converted to Christianity before marriage.
He was often threatened and had options to leave Kashmir but he chose to stay on. “My father was a good man. He believed in education and empowerment through education. I’ve been very influenced by his life,” she reveals. According to her, it was because of him that she grew up to believe in the power of helping others. She remembers him as a selfless worker who genuinely cared for the people who he worked for and he has been, no doubt, the biggest influence in her life. “We were brought up with an attitude of looking out for others before ourselves and our own interests, and I hope my work with Tent will allow me to embody his and my values,” she adds. Shabnam is writing a book about her experiences which she expects will be published soon.