Bangladesh Artisans

kristenray (157 of 594)Most girls dream of their wedding day … and I was no exception. Last year, I was able to say ‘I do’ to my best friend and marry him under a beautiful August sky.

Getting to that perfect day, however, was full of many details, one of which was particularly important to us: How can we add Fair Trade products to our wedding, and stay within budget?

Working at Ten Thousand Villages for the last nine years has had a deep and profound effect on my life. I understand how the things I buy affect those who made them, and this knowledge drives the decisions I make every day.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Mahatma Ghandi

Hope StoneWouldn’t it be nice if all trade were fair?

The customers I have the privilege of serving at our Montreal St-Denis store sure think so! I believe the words of Mahatma Ghandi above capture the motivations of many of our dedicated customers. (Incidentally, you might be interested to learn that the name “Ten Thousand Villages” was inspired by Mahatma Ghandi.)

For many, shopping at Ten Thousand Villages is a way to make a positive difference in the lives of those who work to create the things they love. Fair Trade serves as an alternative form of production: aiming to build and strengthen the communities from which our products are sourced, and putting people before profits.

When individuals make purchases, our mission of creating opportunities for artisans in developing countries comes to life.

 

How It Was Made - 1Throughout the busy streets of Mumbai, India, large blue Jhola bags can be seen everywhere, bursting at the seams with the owner’s precious cargo. Like all plastic bags, however, their job soon comes to an end. They become colourful litter at the side of the road, where they collect dust and dirt. In a city of 12 million people, these Jhola bags really start to pile up.

It’s in these heaps of plastic bags that Asha Handicrafts saw potential.

Asha means “hope” in Sanskrit. Asha Handicrafts is an environmentally conscious Fair Trade organization that decided to start purchasing used Jhola bags from people who were selling them on the streets to earn income. Once washed and sorted, they’re placed in the hands of artisans working in Asha’s Trash to Treasure program.

sunita_shrestha_knitting_groupLaxmi Maharjan has “slippery hands.”

So does Edith Najjemba, and Loreta Rafisura, and many other women artisans with whom Ten Thousand Villages works. While this description may seem unlikely – and even offensive out of context – it applies perfectly to them all. Especially to Laxmi, an expert weaving instructor with the Association of Craft Producers (ACP) in Nepal.

We don’t plan to post a blog entry every day, but we didn’t want to miss this opportunity to let you know that tomorrow is a pretty big deal for us at Ten Thousand Villages.

Bangalesh_HajiganjSaturday, March 8 is International Women’s Day, an annual celebration of women, with roots tracing back to the early 1900s. This year’s theme is Inspiring Change. There will be thousands of events around the world to commemorate successes, and to inspire women to continue working for equality where discrimination persists.

A “Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment and Freedom of Association” is one of the fundamental values of Fair Trade. It’s enshrined in the World Fair Trade Organization’s (WFTO) 10 Principles of Fair Trade,  and it guides the work of committed Fair Trade organizations like Ten Thousand Villages.

According to the WFTO’s International Women’s Day 2014 webpage:

Women do most of the work in the world – 67%, in fact, according to a UN report – yet receive 30 to 40% less than men for comparable work, and in many developing countries women receive no remuneration at all.

These are startling, upsetting statistics.

And they’re the reason why Ten Thousand Villages is so proud that 60% of our artisan partners are women.

Please check out the WFTO’s press release about the intersection of Fair Trade with gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

As well, stay tuned next week for a blog entry from one of our store managers about a women’s artisan group that we’re proud to partner with.

We’re in the midst of a major shift in the way consumers think about their purchases. As we gain greater access to information about where and how things are made, expectations are on the rise.

In the past, it was enough to talk about corporate social responsibility (CSR). But now, much more is required to secure people’s trust: Companies must demonstrate genuine accountability, and their actions must be able to withstand scrutiny.