Kantha is a traditional form of embroidery that’s popular in
Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal. For hundreds of years, women
in India and Bangladesh used kantha stitching to create something to keep them
warm. Using a small, straight running stitch, they took old pieces of cloth and
sewed them together to create blankets, throws, scarves and shawls.
Now, a skill passed down from generation to generation, kantha
refers to both the tradition of creating a beautiful and useful product out of
discarded items, as well as the kantha craft itself, which features a signature
running stitch. While kantha traditionally refers to upcycling old materials,
some kantha items are now also made with new fabrics.
This beautiful, reversible kantha throw was handstitched by
Najmeen. Najmeen is 29 years old and has been working with Prokritee for five
years. Prokritee provides work for women in Bangladesh with little or no
income. Makers work in a safe environment and are given a fair wage, which
helps them take care of their families and send their children to school.
Prokritee provided training for Najmeen and taught her how to do kantha
stitching. This particular throw is made with recycled cotton fabric purchased
from a local market in Bangladesh. It took Najmeen almost six days to make this
Before Najmeen joined Prokritee, she and her family
struggled to make ends meet.
“We didn’t have enough income to pay for food or give our
children an education. We didn’t have enough money for medicine.”
After joining Prokritee though, things got better for
Najmeen and her family.
“I am now able to buy good food and clothes for my family. I
can now pay for my children’s education.”
Najmeen’s dream for the future is to continue giving her
children an education so they can be literate and have successful futures.
It’s no secret that the commercial tanning process for
leather is hazardous. Not only is leather tanned with compounds that are
harmful to the environment, but this chemical process is also damaging to the
health of the people working in the leather production industry.
Many of our bags, purses and wallets are handcrafted using eco-leather by makers working with the Craft Resource Centre (CRC). CRC is a fair trade resource and marketing centre in India that tans their leather products without using harmful chemicals. In other words, instead of using azo dyes, formaldehyde and other harmful substances, eco-leather is tanned using environmentally-friendly materials derived from sustainable tea bark extracts and waxes.
Indro Dasgupta is the director of CRC and we were fortunate
to spend time with him this past spring. During his visit with us, he outlined
the eco-leather process. He explained that since the government in India has
banned the use of cow in the production of leather, CRC eco-leather products
are made with water buffalo. The water buffalo are first used for milk and
meat, and then the skin, which would typically be considered waste, is sold to
CRC for the production of leather. In other words, no animals are killed for
the purpose of making leather. CRC is simply upcycling the waste produced by
Indro also explained that after the raw hide is collected, it
is tanned with eco-friendly materials on a drumming machine and then it’s set
out to dry. Once the leather is dry, it is then waxed, shined and sprayed.
Finally, the leather is assembled into beautiful purses, wallets and bags.
Mallika Manjari De is a quality checker and packer working
with CRC. She is 28 years old and has been working with CRC for almost two
years. When asked about how her life has changed since working with CRC, she
said, “Life was difficult. I found it difficult to make ends meet. Now, I am
able to buy necessities for my home.”
Eco-leather is more than a fashion choice; it’s a way to better the environment and improve the lives of people like Mallika. Browse our handcrafted eco-leather collection online.
What looks like an egg, is as hard as rock, and has the superhuman ability to help save endangered elephants and rainforests?
Say hello to tagua, the seed of a palm tree found in South American tropical countries ranging from Ecuador to northwestern Brazil. Commonly known as ivory palms or tagua palms, these trees’ scientific name means, “plant ivory.”
You know you’re in for a great conference when someone runs on stage dressed as a banana. And it’s even better when you get to model this banana costume yourself later that day!
From January 14 to 16, I, along with some Ten Thousand Villages colleagues, attended the Canadian Fair Trade Network 2015 conference. This year’s theme was ‘Engage,’ and the aforementioned banana costume was just one of many highlights from this annual event.
Back in early January, our social media and marketing team gathered together to make a call to Level Ground Trading, our fair trade coffee partner.
Located in Victoria, B.C., the company’s slogan is, “We shake the hands that pick the coffee,” but in reality, the organization does much more. Not only does it invest in communities in South America and Africa, coffee roasting guru and master taster, Josh Del Sol, creates tasty blends and roasts beans.
We wanted to pick his brain and find out all we could about the coffee we sell. It turns out there was plenty to learn. For example…
What 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.
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