Katrina Torres ’21 and Alena Madar ’21 traveled to India last summer as part of the ILR Global Service Learning program. Once there, they collaborated with ILR’s partner, the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM), and local tribal women to sell lightweight, flowing pants that help provide income to indigenous women.
Torres, a student in the ILR School, came up with the idea, and women from three indigenous Indian tribes in the township of Heggadadevana kote selected the name “Totally Tribal” to highlight their pride in the merchandise they make.
Donna Ramil, associate director of international programs in ILR, said the trust developed during ILR’s nine-year partnership with SVYM allowed the students to engage at a deep level. “The idea came about after Alena and Katrina had lived with the local community for nearly two months,” Ramil said. “They are deeply committed.”
Torres and Madar, a student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, returned to India in January to focused on building sustainability, strengthening the payment processing pathway, tackling international shipping and standardizing sizes.
When they returned to Cornell, they coordinated packaging and marketing of the pants, which sell for $20 a pair. On March 1, their efforts resulted in the first U.S. sale. Since the launch, Totally Tribal U.S. sales turned a $1,400 profit, all of which benefits the tribal women.