By Cassandra Klewicki, Carpenters Local 290
Today I had the privilege of visiting Archana’s Carpentry Unit with two other delegates from the trade. It was an amazing experience. First we met Chandran, who is part of the Vishwakarma (Carpenter) caste in India. That means his family have been carpenters for generations. It’s essentially his destiny to be a carpenter.
He is a strong ally to tradeswomen, pushing back against gender norms, as well as cultural norms by helping to teach 15 female apprentices in this shop. Many of them are not from the same caste as him. He is an example of what is possible when our brothers support and encourage us.
The students showed us their most recent furniture projects and then the lead carpenter, Omana Soman gave us a tour of the shop. I learned about their method of construction, which is a variation of the Lath and Plaster method we used in older homes back in the States. They use bamboo wood on the inside which was interesting to see. Throughout the shop, we were able to compare methods and tools to the ones we use to back home. A huge highlight of the day was when she demonstrated how to use a Lathe to create a table leg, something none of us had seen before.
During our time there, we were interviewed by three different local media outlets. We tried to use the opportunity to normalize women in the trades, and build cross cultural understanding. Ultimately, we found more similarities than differences in the work, and in the struggles we face as women in the trades. I’m happy that we had some exciting conversations about wood and gained new friends.