Meet Rihana Ismail Kadampur


“No matter what the work is, I want to earn so we can feed ourselves without having to ask anyone for anything.”

Born in Hubli in South India, Rihana grew up in great poverty. She had two brothers and two sisters, one of who was a cousin who Rihana’s mother raised as her own, after the girls alcoholic father tried to sell her off.


Rihana has never left Hubli. Her mother works as a domestic help and her father is a tailor. He goes from door to door seeking work,  stitching ladies’ clothes.


When Rihana was growing up there was no school around so she never went to school. She can read numbers and can sign her name, which she learned from her daughter.


When she was young, Rihana used to go with her mom to work, to help her in her work as a maid. For a year she attended Quran classes daily for an hour in a neighbors house, learning by listening to what was being taught. She knows a little Urdu.

At the age of 12, Rihana started learning the Kasuti style of embroidery, a tradition of Karnataka state. After learning for a month, she started getting work. Whatever she would earn from it, she used to give her mother and that made her feel really good.


When asked for one nice memory of childhood, Rihana says she has none.

She only remembers her mothers’ daily struggles. Her two brothers work at construction sites but don't look after her parents. Rihana lives near her mom, always thinks of her and talks to her everyday.


Rihana got married at 16. Her husband’s family approached them when he was 20. He was an autorickshaw driver and a mechanic. He now works as a painter in a truck manufacturing company.


Rihana became a mother when she was 17 – she has three daughters aged 17, 16, 13 and her son is 10. All 4 are in school. When her oldest daughter turned 7, Rihana got a job at a shirt factory and would work from 11 AM to 6 PM. While the children looked after each other, she left that job last year because managing the house was taking a toll on her young daughter.


Rihana was looking for work with more flexible hours when Ohrna came into the picture. It presented an opportunity at embroidery, which she really likes.

“Working with colors gives me a lot of joy and peace of mind as well,” she says.

She also enjoys that she can work from home. When her daughters see her working at home, they want to learn it too.

“When people appreciate my work I feel very happy.”