A woman who befriended poor villagers in southern India while on holiday has set up a business to sell their handmade products and provide them with an income.

Caroline Keane of Wood Street, Walthamstow has launched Ethihub to benefit a group of Irula tribal women she met embroidering bags in Tamil Nadu.

The tribe are traditionally employed as snake and rat catchers during harvesting season but many struggle to provide for their large families.

“They are so inspirational,” she said.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

“They live in huts that get washed away in the rain, they don’t get vouchers for food or have rights because they are tribal.

“But despite their hardships they can do beautiful embroidery and they take such pride in the quality of their work.

“They are artists rather than people who make things.”

Ms Keane sells a range of embroidered bags, pencil cases, Christmas decorations and stocking fillers made by the women at a community centre.

The proceeds from sales go towards educational programmes for the women’s children, something which is close to Ms Keane’s heart.

“It’s very much about setting up the next generation.

“It’s not charity because it’s enabling them to earn a living - it is self-empowerment for the women.

“There is a centre for them to come when they can and sit and do their own designs based on their culture and there is no one telling them what to do.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

“There is no in between with my small business and the money is going directly back to them.”

Ms Keane will hold a stall at the Stoke Newington Christmas Market in the town hall on Saturday, December 9.

She will also be at the Vegan Christmas Festival in The London Irish Centre, Camden on Friday, December 15.

For more information click here.