In the fall of 2014, I had the privilege of sitting down with Tanu Dey, CEO of Dhaka Handicrafts. Tanu was visiting our office from Bangladesh – and many of her stories came flooding back into mind recently as we were planning to feature baskets, since Dhaka Handicrafts is one of our biggest suppliers of hand-woven baskets. Tanu shared story after story about the incredible impact fair trade is making on the 1,300 individual artisans working with her organization.
One story in particular stood out to me during our conversation, and it has stuck with me ever since:
It’s the story of Fatema Begum, a woman living in the small village of Birpolee. After her marriage in 1988, her mother-in-law, who worked with Dhaka Handicrafts at the time, taught her the art of basket weaving. Shortly thereafter, Fatema also began working for the group.
These days, Fatema’s husband is no longer able to work because of serious health issues – and so her income is crucial to her family’s survival. Not only does she continue to make baskets, but she also works on Dhaka’s head office team keeping records of producers, delivering advance payments to artisans, and managing details associated with baskets produced by other members of her group.
Fatema is certainly thankful for the income. But perhaps more than that, she appreciates the respect and dignity that working with Dhaka Handicrafts offers her. In her own words:
“I am very grateful to Dhaka Handicrafts for helping me to be a self-reliant woman. I am happy to be able to meet the household needs and, at the same time, bear the cost of education of my children.”
“…There are lots of other women who are also able to live a dignified life and become independent, leading their households with prosperity, because of opportunities and services provided by Dhaka Handicrafts.”
Fatema has been elected to a leadership role by her peers, and she is highly respected within her community. In Canada, we often take it for granted that women will be afforded these types of opportunities. But in Bangladesh, it’s far from the norm.
Ten Thousand Villages counts it an honour to partner with groups around the world, like Dhaka Handicrafts, that are providing hope and empowerment to individuals who might otherwise have few opportunities to provide for themselves and their families.