Bangladesh Artisans

Great fair trading relationships are a lot like long-term romantic relationships. Both can have their ups and downs, but in the end are built day by day on a mutual commitment to a partnership that makes everyone involved feel valued, needed, and self-actualized. The security of the partnership lets both parties succeed, on their own terms, together.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we reached out to people working in fair trade to impart some wisdom gleaned during their time spent in fair trade and long-term relationships.

Stacey and Laurie, Married 25 years, 20 years working with Level Ground Trading:

At Level Ground Trading, we’ve always embraced a belief that fair trade is, at its core, a healthy long-term relationship typified by: dialogue, trust and respect.  So, there’s a lot of similarity and overlap between that view of fair trade and a healthy marriage.

As for difference, in fair trade each ‘party’ has a very distinct role that is difficult for the other to thoroughly grasp.  Our lives and situations are often so unique to the other that the challenges each faces don’t translate easily.  While our producer partners are championing their farmer members, they are often hampered by corruption, climate change, crop failures, poor road systems, etc. Meanwhile, here in North America, we are seeking to create a voice for our producer partners with ‘another product’ in a noisy consumer market.  Busyness, bargain shoppers and greed are often the greatest challenges to creating a fair trade foothold! It can feel like we are living in different worlds.

There are big and little joys shared by working in fair trade together! We joined together for life, largely because of our shared values and desire to live aware of, and connected to, people living in less fortunate situations around the world. Our everyday work has provided an ‘outlet’ for these shared passions.  We’ve traveled together – with all four of our kids in tow – to visit indigenous farming communities in the Philippines!  We often commute to work together – walking or riding bikes.

What is your advice for a long, happy marriage OR fair trade relationship?

A sense of hope, or vision, for the future is critical. In a ‘hope filled’ context grace and forgiveness will flourish. This allows each to be safe while being honest and vulnerable. Fair trade partnerships and marriage have ups and down and they are not for the faint of heart. The best reward offered from the journey together is to look back over a LONG path traveled hand in hand.

Mr Sudarta and Mrs. Luh Sudi, Jewellers with Mitra Bali, Indonesia

(Translated from Balinese)

What things are similar between fair trade and a marriage or long term relationship?

The good things are: openness, transparent dialogue in managing the business; and each of us knowing  and appreciating what we’ve earned, and the potential we have.

What is different?

Not so much is different, but we did have a bit of a dilemma about teaching our children the craft. Fair trade forbids child labour, so we didn’t teach our daughters to make jewellery when they were young. Now our daughters are older, and none of them want to continue with the skills!

What has been the best part about working in fair trade with your partner?

Fairness and openness.  We both knew who our buyers are, and how much profit we have, and how much responsibility we have.

What is your advice for a long, happy marriage OR fair trade relationship?

Fair trade is a good tool not only for business, but also to have a happy marriage too! We hope more people will implement fair trade principles in their lives and businesses.

Irani, CRC Exports, India

What are some good things that are similar between fair trade and a marriage or long term relationship? What is different?

In both fair trade and a long term relationship, the best result is continuity of the relationship. From this continuity evolves a sense of security, which helps the parties to look forward to a future and plan an overall growth of individuals or organizations. It helps the parties to fulfill their aspirations and dreams for a better life, a better community and a better world around.

The difference between the two lies in the fact that a long term relationship depends on only internal factors, but fair trade depends on a few external factors too, like market demands, trends, cost effectiveness, etc. The difference is guided by who rules – the heart or the head.

While working together, the best thing that happened was the way either of us learnt to understand the other better. In spite of any difference of opinion or point of view, we learnt to accept the others opinion. For me, my partner was an inspiration and he always supported me in all my ventures.

In either a fair trade relationship or a marriage, the most important values are commitment, compromise and a conscious effort to keep the relationship growing. This has to be the foundation on which any relationship should be based on – be it a marriage or a fair trade business. One must have the total commitment to the relationship. Without this commitment nothing works in any type of relationship.

To keep one’s commitment in place, there is always a need for compromise, which is simply understanding the others circumstances and viewpoints. It is always good to put one self in the other’s shoes and then judge the situation. In a relationship, one’s individuality is not the prime factor and it will require certain amount of compromise from time to time. This has to be done without any malice.

In our personal relationship, we kept these three basic foundations in place. There will be ups and downs in a relationship, or in a business. For longevity, the parties have to rise above it, bring back the harmony, and move on.


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