Update FairMail India, 2 years later

Posted at 26 October 2016
FairMail India's former photographer on the shore of the Ganges river

FairMail India’s former photographer on the shore of the Ganges river

This month it is 2 years ago that FairMail India had to close its doors after the incidents that took place (read what happened here). Time for a short update on what has happened since.

Free on bail

The most important thing is that the FairMail team member who was put in prison for over 1 year is out of jail and back with his family since last year. Only on bail though, as the accusations against him still haven’t been properly investigated for a judge to be able to cast a verdict. After the hard time in jail the ongoing uncertainty of the court case outcome continues to cast a shadow on his future plans, making it even more difficult to move on.

Staying in touch

As the court case is not closed yet we think it is still too dangerous for FairMail founders Peter and Janneke to visit India personally. We have stayed in touch through group and individual Skype calls, facebook messages and e-mail. And with nearly weekly email contact with Asha Deep, the local school who is taking care of guiding the teenagers and paying them their share of the profit from the sale of their cards. One of FairMail’s former co-managers continues to work for Asha Deep to help with the money distribution and administration of the teenager’s education bills that we keep checking.

Money from card sale still coming in…

Over the past 2 years the Indian teenagers still earned 1.121.088 rupees (about 15.000 euro) with the sale of their cards and photos. As they haven’t been producing any new photographs, and our customers keep asking for new pictures for renewal of the FairMail spinners, their earnings are down nearly 50% compared to when they were still taking photographs for FairMail India.

… and providing structural improvements.

Despite not being able to continue in FairMail India until the retirement age of 19, all of the 9 teenagers that were participating in FairMail at the moment of closing have continued to pursue further education (8x) or got a decent job (1x). 4 of them finished high school this year. You care read more about each teenager on their updated profile pages.

No re-start of FairMail India?

Despite still earning money from the photographs they took over 2 years ago, all of the teenagers are still quite disappointed that FairMail India had to close its doors. They have also stated repeatedly that they hope that FairMail India will start up again in the future. However, we had to make clear that this is not possible for us. Although the fight between the two families seems to have calmed down, the family feud is not solved as this is a deep, generation long problem. We also feel that the mutual trust between some of the teenagers is broken, as well as our own trust in being able to understand and control the situation in case something similar will happen. Especially as we saw how the police case was totally corrupt and thus outside our influence. We do not want to take the risk of creating potential new tensions. This is why we decided to focus on just Peru.

Lessons Learnt

Looking back over the past 2 years it has been a bumpy ride. We were put in a situation we never intended to be in, that forced us to take decisions we hoped we would never have to take.

What we learnt is that in an honour culture as in India, family feuds and jealousy can lead to súch deep frustrations that people choose to really harm each other. It turned out we did not succeed to protect FairMail and its members enough from this danger. And we learnt to never underestimate it. The question is if this should stop us to try and empower teenagers, we think not: development is change and change often goes hand in hand with some sort of conflict. Luckily, in our 10 years of FairMail we have mostly seen supportive people around the teenagers, people who are proud and happy to see the FairMail teenagers grow. Grow to become creative, young adults working on their own future while they keep on supporting the family they come from.

Tags: India, Photographers