Bangladesh Artisans

Most of the makers we work with are women, and most of those women are mothers. With Mother’s Day approaching here in Canada, we just had to tell these stories. Each one shows the resilience and exceptionalism of the maker mothers of fair trade.

Every day, as we unpack, sort, ship, shelve and gift beautiful fair trade products, we think about the hundreds of amazing women who have turned a handicraft into a livelihood, and a livelihood into a future.

Tamil Arasi, maker with Blue Mango, India:

 “My daughter graduated from high school and is now studying to be a nurse.”

“I joined Blue Mango in 2009 after my husband died of a heart attack.  I was at a loss about what to do. How would I support my children? I had worked as a health worker part -time in the past, but decided to come to Blue Mango instead because of the support they provided for me as a widow, and the steady work. I like it here because it’s friendly and I can forget my troubles. My daughter graduated from high school and is now studying to be a nurse. My son is in 12th grade and he wants to be a policeman. I don’t like that idea because I don’t want him to get hurt. I’d rather he was safe behind a desk at a government job!”

Rawshan Ara, maker with Prokritee, Bangladesh

“My future dream is to create a better life for my kids.”

“Before joining Shuktara, I had no source of income and struggled to provide the basic needs of my family. Back then I wasn’t able to send my kids to school. I was leading a hopeless life.”

“At the very beginning of my career here, I received a three-month on-the-job training on making handmade paper products. Later, I received more lessons from the design team of Prokritee.”

“Now, I am able to earn and provide the basic needs for my family, and send my kids to school. I also learned that I enjoy making handicraft products.”

“My future dream is to create a better life for my kids. I want them to get higher education. I also want to own a land and a house of my own. To me, fair trade means getting fair wages to support my family, working in a peaceful environment, and living with dignity.”

Rajakumari, maker with Blue Mango, India:

“People told me that my life was over, but I didn’t listen. I was not going to live in poverty and rely on charity.”

“In 2000, when Blue Mango started in a tiny shed, I was one of the first 4 women to join. After some time, the program expanded to the point where Tamar madam needed help and in 2005, I was offered the position of Supervisor. Although the job is stimulating, I often feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of running a program of 55 women especially since I only have 8th grade education.”

“Several years ago, my husband collapsed on the road from a stroke. At that time, my son Pradeep was fifteen and my daughter Jeyanthi was ten.  People told me that my life was over, but I didn’t listen. I was not going to live in poverty and rely on charity. I could see that the only way to raise my kids was to continue to work at Blue Mango and build a new life for us.”

“Thanks to Blue Mango, I was able to raise my children on my own. My son has a computer job in a company and my daughter has graduated and is a school teacher. Nobody from my family has ever gone to college. I don’t have to depend on my father, I don’t have to depend on my brothers, and I won’t have to depend on my son. I have pension and savings, and does that ever feel good! My neighbors have never seen an independent widow before.”

“Because of my story, new women immediately learn that Blue Mango is not a charity, but a place where women develop financial strength and pride through perseverance and hard work.”

 

Sacred Mark (8 of 57)It’s no secret there’s extreme poverty in Bangladesh. And although, according to The World Bank, the number of the country’s poor has decreased by 26 percent in recent years, here’s the harsh reality: there are still approximately 47 million poverty-stricken men, women and children in Bangladesh today.

Women in particular face massive societal and socioeconomic challenges in trying to make a better life for themselves and their children. Because school and well-paying jobs are often unavailable to girls and women, some turn to the sex trade to survive.

But now there’s hope.

New Items Summer 2013 WebWhat does it mean to imagine a better world, and to also strive for it? This is one of those questions that built Ten Thousand Villages.

It might sound odd – but in an ideal world, the concept of “fair trade” as a distinct niche would one day become obsolete. We hope for a day when all commerce is fairly traded, and the business community regards all people involved in global supply chains as equal parties. But there is so much more to our picture of a better world.

“The most fulfilling thing about working in fair trade? Definitely the amazing trading relationships Sasha has developed,” says Roopa Mehta, CEO of Sasha Exports.

“Sasha’s partnerships with workshops – and with our trading partners around the world, like Ten Thousand Villages – all make me so pleased. Every single one of these groups has overcome challenges to get where they are today.

“Fair trade is growing, and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.”Roopa Mehta from Sasha Exports

spin_rice_thumb“It’s virtually impossible to grasp … the challenges these people surmount to get a rice crop planted, harvested, and brought to market,” says Stacey Toews, Co-Founder & Communications Catalyst at Level Ground Trading, one of Ten Thousand Villages’ long-term partners.

UNESCO declared the Philippine Rice Terraces a World Heritage Site in 1995 within the “living cultural landscape” category. People of the Ifugao ethnic group have occupied and grown rice on these terraces for more than 2,000 years.

Tis_the_reasonNovember is here! And as anyone who has ever worked in retail knows, this is the week that kick-starts the holiday season into high gear. Exciting? Absolutely! Our stores and warehouse are brimming with unique gifts we can’t wait to share with you.

But here’s something else new we’re excited to reveal: Our ’Tis the Reason campaign.

All year, we’ve worked hard to understand what current and new customers truly want from Ten Thousand Villages. You spoke, we listened – and we have created a campaign that not only excites and motivates, but also incorporates our longstanding values that remain strong and true.