Bangladesh Artisans

On August 26, 1920, women were finally given the right to vote in the United States. In Canada, women were given the right to vote in 1921. Today, women’s equality is still about that, but it also encompasses even more aspects. To start, it’s about providing women all over the world with equal opportunities to education and employment, and eliminating discrimination, stereotypes and violence against women.

Since the beginning, Ten Thousand Villages has been empowering women. In 1946, our founder, Edna Ruth Byler, a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) worker, visited volunteers in Puerto Rico who were teaching sewing classes to help improve the lives of women living in poverty. When she came back to North America, she filled her car with embroidery pieces she had purchased from these women at a fair price and sold them at churches, parties and sewing circles. The concept of fair trade – and Ten Thousand Villages – was born.

Edna Ruth Byler

We are proud to work with maker groups all over the world that empower women. This year, to celebrate Women’s Equality Day 2019, we want to highlight a few of the groups we work with that are working towards women’s equality on a daily basis.

St. Mary’s Mahila Shikshan

Alpa

500 women in India work with St. Mary’s creating embroidery designs using locally produced thread and hand-loomed cotton. These female makers have access to medical care, savings plans, sewing education, cooking classes and scholarships for their children. Each year, the organization celebrates women’s equality.

Alpa Mistri does embroidery for St. Mary’s. She is 38 years old and has been working with the organization for two years. When asked about the impact St. Mary’s has had on her life, she said, “Working in this organization has given me an identity. As a single mother, I can stand on my own two feet and look after my children without the support of a husband. I am working towards giving my children an education. I want my daughter to become a computer engineer.”

Corr – The Jute Works

Sonia

Corr – The Jute Works markets handmade items, primarily jute and terracotta products, created by Bangladeshi women regardless of caste, religion or race. They work with 4,000 makers and focus on job training, literacy and health issues, developing leadership skills and generating awareness of women’s rights.

Sonia Begum crafts terracotta pots with Corr – The Jute Works. She is 24 years old and has been working with the organization for one year. When asked what the biggest change has been since working with Corr – The Jute Works, she said, “I am getting a fair wage for my work. I am independent and my voice is heard. Because of fair trade, rural women in Bangladesh have rights. I feel empowered.”

Sapia

Magdaly

Sapia works with 80 makers in Colombia creating beautiful products with unique materials like orange peel, tagua and corn husk.

Magdaly Figeroa Rincón is one of the satellite shop leaders working at Sapia. She is 38 years old and has been working with Sapia for five years. She makes all kinds of pieces of jewellery and orange peel dolls. When asked how her life has changed since working with Sapia, she said, “Fair trade allows me to be independent and generate my own income. I can work from home and still dedicate time to my family. I can improve my family’s standard of living and I can also support other women by bringing them work.”

Saidpur Enterprises

Fatema

Saidpur Enterprises provides work for women in Bangladesh. In addition to a fair wage, makers are given microloans, financial advice, literacy classes and training sessions in women’s legal rights, business and nutrition. Each year, the organization celebrates women’s equality.

Fatema SL sews bags at Saidpur Enterprises. She is 50 years old and has been working with the organization since 1991. When asked how her life has changed since working with Saidpur Enterprises, she said, “Before Saidpur Enterprises, my husband did not make enough to provide for the family and there were many days where we did not eat. Since working here, I have been able to provide food for our children and send them to school. I also have been able to buy a piece of land to build a house. I get paid regularly and work in an environment with no discrimination.”

When you buy a product from Ten Thousand Villages, your purchase helps empower women around the world. Your purchase:

  1. Provides women with equal opportunities to employment
  2. Gives women a voice and the ability to be independent
  3. Gives girls access to education
  4. Helps reduce discrimination against women

Thank you for supporting women’s equality.

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.

TOP - Exterior shot of mill“This is where you belong,” a customer said, when she discovered the Ten Thousand Villages location in St. Jacobs, Ontario had just opened this past May.

Back when Ten Thousand Villages (then known as SelfHelp Crafts) was just beginning, one of the first Canadian locations was in The Mill in St. Jacobs. Over the years, the store moved around the village, and finally settled down to become what is now the Waterloo store.

The St. Jacobs Mill is a beautifully restored historic building perched on the Conestoga River, with local and Canadian artisan weavers and potters tucked snugly in the silos. A local artist hosts his gallery next to the silos, and three museum displays and a model train fill the majority of the building. The street side entrance welcomes visitors with Scottish treasures, and is once again home to Ten Thousand Villages.