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.
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
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
Corr – The Jute Works
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 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 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:
Provides women with equal opportunities to
Gives women a voice and the ability to be
Here at Ten Thousand Villages Canada, we believe that all
people deserve the chance to earn a fair and stable income. Our mission is to
help the world discover beautiful things that do beautiful things. We strive to
offer stunning, globally responsible lifestyle products that create
opportunities for makers in developing countries to earn an income, in turn,
improving their quality of life. When you make a purchase from Ten Thousand
Villages, you become part of something more than just retail; you are part of
the solution to creating a FAIR world.
Here are seven important ways your purchase makes a
Your purchase puts
food on the table
“Before fair trade, I
was entirely dependent on my husband’s income to bear family expenses. Being a
van puller, he didn’t earn much and always struggled to provide the basic needs
for our family. My kids and I would often go hungry due to lack of food. I
often had to borrow food and money from my neighbors to feed my kids. Every day
was a constant battle with hunger for me and my kids. Thanks to fair trade, I
was able to work for a fair wage, which helped with family expenses. In a way,
fair trade has saved my family’s life.”
“Being able to send my
kids to school has been the biggest change for me since I started working in
fair trade. I am very proud of them because they have managed to succeed in
their academic lives and are heading towards a brighter future. My son has
recently completed a dental technology course, and now, he is doing an
internship in Dhaka. My daughter is taking a nursing course in a medical college.”
“Fair trade has
provided me with regular work and has helped educate my children. Fair trade
has also provided me with additional benefits like free health check-ups, life
insurance and medical insurance.”
“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
also support other women by bringing them work.”
“Before fair trade, I
was going through a really bad time with my family. My husband was really sick
and I took out a lot of loans, all of which made my life miserable. There was
no money left in the family, so I couldn’t send my kids to school, let alone provide
them the minimum basic needs. With fair trade, I was able to provide the basic
needs for my kids and send them to school. I was also able to see a better
doctor to treat my husband’s sickness. He is doing fine now and has a shop in
the local market.”
“Working for a fair
trade organization has had a positive impact on my life. I receive a fair wage,
regular employment opportunities and benefits. I don’t have to rely on anyone for
my personal expenses. I am able to provide for my family. I feel empowered and
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.
Thankfully, most Canadians have never experienced war. In Cambodia, however, people are still healing from the destruction of the past. Years after the Vietnam War and the Pol Pot genocide, Cambodia’s countryside is still littered with bomb and artillery shell casings. Reminders of war are everywhere, and healing is an ongoing process. As a way to heal from the past, the makers of Rajana Association use these reminders of tragedy and transform them into beautiful pieces of jewellery that are wearable symbols of hope, peace and strength.
Van Sovann is one of the jewellery makers working at Rajana. He is 38 years old and has been working with Rajana for 20 years. When asked what he wants to share with Canadians, he said, “Thank you very much for your support. When you buy our products, it provides me with the ability to take care of my family.”
According to Sovann, it takes six people to craft one piece
of jewellery and depending on how complicated the design is, three to four
pieces of jewellery can be made in one day. First, the recycled brass casings
are sourced and collected from a village nearby. Next, using an acetylene torch,
the casings are cut and assembled into earrings, bracelets and necklaces. Then,
symbols of hope and peace, such as doves, are engraved into the metal by hand. Finally,
each piece is polished and shined. Sovann enjoys welding and assembling the
pieces of jewellery.
Each piece of jewellery is a symbol of hope, peace and
strength. By transforming symbols of war into symbols of beauty, Cambodians like
Sovann are supporting their families, healing from the past and looking forward
to the future.
Browse our handcrafted bombshell jewellery collection online and wear these symbols of strength wherever you go.
Handcrafted by makers working with Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS), KTS rugs are the perfect addition to your living room, family room or bedroom. Traditionally, these rugs were made with the intention of sitting and sleeping on them, but the rugs are now made with the purpose of adding warmth and decoration to a room.
Each rug takes five people to craft and is made from hand
spun Tibetan sheep wool. First, one
person hand spins the sheep wool into yarn. Second, using environmentally
friendly dyes, one person hand dyes the yarn. Then, one person winds the yarn
before another person weaves the rug. Finally, the process ends with one person
trimming. In one day, one individual can finish 0.138 square metres of the rug.
Four out of five of these tasks are usually done by women.
The Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS) offers training in
wool spinning, hand knitting and carpet weaving to members of low-caste
communities in Nepal. Graduates of the training program have the opportunity to
move into employment at KTS or to establish their own workshops. KTS embraces
environmentally friendly practices such as the use of AZO-friendly dyes for
carpets. In addition to the technical school, KTS operates an orphanage
for abandoned children, a nursery, a primary school for children from
impoverished families and a workplace daycare. Other benefits include literacy
classes, training in writing and basic numeracy, women’s health education,
health and accident insurance and access to loans.
Sita B K is one of the carpet weavers working at KTS. She is
48 years old and has been working with KTS for 14 years.
“I have experienced a lot of changes since joining KTS. I have become independent and can send my children to the KTS primary school. I would like to thank you all for buying our products.”
Sita B K
Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS)
Add a touch of warmth and decoration to your home with one
of these beautiful, handcrafted rugs.
No, we’re not going out of business. We’re celebrating summer with up to 70% off select items! With a huge summer sale like this, it might be natural to assume that the reason why we’re offering this sale is because we’re struggling. But the real story is that we love the products the makers create and we love being able to bring new handcrafted items to the Canadian marketplace. In order to continue supporting the makers we work with, we need to make room in our inventory so we can bring more of their handcrafted products to our stores.
“Thank you for buying our products and showing your appreciation for our craft. It keeps us working to support our families.”
This sale is also for you, our customers. Not only will it
allow us to continue to share new, exciting and useful products, but it’s also to
show our appreciation and say ‘thank you’ to all of you for helping us achieve
our mission. Together, we’re improving the lives of makers in developing
countries by supporting their craft.
“Canadians have the
power to change the world every day. With simple shopping choices, you can
support small scale producers to provide better living conditions.”
As always, the sales that we run do not impact the makers. As a founding member of the WFTO, our business is guided by the 10 principles of fair trade and as such, all the makers we work with have been paid in full.
Be a part of the story and help us celebrate our mission by joining in the fun of the summer sale. Shop for loved ones and give a gift with meaning, or shop for yourself and get your home (indoors and outdoors) and wardrobe ready for summer.
Canada Day is almost here! If you’re hosting a July 1 BBQ and
need some ideas on outdoor table settings, then check out our list of
must-haves for every summer BBQ.
A tablecloth is a definite must-have for every outdoor dinner party. It’s a simple and effortless way to spruce up the table. For a centerpiece that also anchors the tablecloth, add a vase with some freshly picked flowers from your garden. This tablecloth was created by makers working with CRC Exports in India.
A pitcher of iced tea or lemonade makes the perfect drink on a hot summer day. If you’re feeling adventurous, try making homemade iced tea or lemonade! Both this pitcher and these drinking glasses are mouth-blown in Bolivia using 100% recycled glass.
Skip wasteful, expensive paper napkins at your next BBQ and try something with cotton or silk. A reusable napkin is easy on the wallet, eco-friendly and adds a decorative touch to your patio table. These blue napkins are softly fringed and were hand-loomed with care.
Dish out appetizers, burgers or sausages in a beautiful platter and serve condiments in a matching tray. Not only will it add a decorative touch, but it’s a great conversation starter. Both this platter and tray were hand painted and glazed in the City of Hebron.
Serve a refreshing salad to your guests. Get your fill of greens or try making a summer salad with fruit! This beautiful, ceramic serving bowl was also hand painted in the City of Hebron where makers earn excellent income and benefit from safe working environments.
A Canadian summer BBQ would be incomplete without these maple leaf coasters! Made out of old newspapers, these coasters keep landfills in the Philippines cleaner. Use them for your July 1 BBQ and every summer BBQ after that!
What are your summer BBQ must-haves? Let us know in the
The kids are almost home for the summer! If you’re looking
for some unique ideas on how to occupy them and keep those “Mom, I’m bored”
comments at bay, then check out some of our suggestions below.
Play outside with your kids this summer! Going to the park or playing a game of soccer is a great way to get your kids active and out in the sunshine. If you’re looking for something different to do outside, then check out our garden card deck. It includes forty fun outdoor activities and games, as well as a booklet with information on gardening tools, plant care and garden safety. It’s a fun and easy way for budding green-thumbs to learn about gardening.
Read to your kids this summer! Visit your local library and have your kids pick out books that are interesting to them. If you’re looking for something new to read to your kids, then check out Look Where We Live. In this picture book, five young friends spend the day traveling around their neighbourhood and participating in activities designed to raise money for their local library. Along the way, they learn about the people and places that make up their community and what it means to be a part of one.
For those rainy summer days, play a board game inside with your kids. If you’re looking for new games your little ones can play, then check out this memory game. They’ll have tons of fun flipping over squares to find the matching animal. Not only will they enjoy themselves and be entertained for hours, but this game will help them build their memory and concentration skills.
This summer, try cooking with your kids! They’ll love getting to eat the final product. Plus, it gives you a chance to teach your kids about kitchen safety and healthy eating. If you’re looking for some new recipes to try making with your kids, then check out the More-with-Less cookbook. The recipes are both healthy and kind to your wallet.
Try Something New
Try something new this summer and do yoga with your kids! Sign up for a family class together or try it in the comfort of your own home, in your backyard or gather up a group of friends and practice in the park with this yoga card deck. Filled with illustrated cards that have clear descriptions and drawings, you can practice bending, twisting and breathing together.
What do you have planned to do with your kids this summer?
Let us know in the comments below!
With the school year coming to an end, it’s the perfect time
to thank your child’s teacher. Show your appreciation with one (or more!) of
these gift ideas. Plus, many of these gifts empower families in countries all
over the world by giving the makers and their children the opportunities to
apply for scholarship funds and attend school, literacy classes and training
sessions. What better gift to give a teacher?
A mug is a classic teacher gift that every educator will not only love but use every day. You can even fill one up with a few chocolate bars too! Famous for its ceramics, this mug is from the village of Bat Trang where makers working with Mai Handicrafts have the opportunity to apply for scholarship funds.
Help your child’s teacher keep their pencils, markers and pens secure with a pencil case. Crafted from jute, this pencil case was made by artisans working with Saidpur Enterprises. The organization offers literacy classes and training sessions on nutrition, women’s legal rights, educational awareness and financial advice.
Teachers will love that these socks help to educate children! With the purchase of these socks, our friends at Conscious Step will make a donation to resource centres in India where children from marginalized communities are given the opportunity to learn, read and write.
But first, tea. Teachers who are tea lovers will love the chance to try something new. This tea is just one of the many types of fair trade tea Ten Thousand Villages carries. Pair this gift idea with one of our mugs for a tea-themed gift!
Gift your child’s teacher with a basket that they can use in their classroom. Made from kaisa grass and recycled plastic, this basket is perfect for holding toys or books. Pair this gift with some of the ideas above and fill it up with school supplies or books!
What are you getting your child’s teacher this year? Or if
you’re a teacher, what would be the perfect gift for you? Let us know in the
Add your favourite picture of you and dad to a frame and you’ve got yourself a simple, yet sentimental Father’s Day gift. The frame pictured above was handcrafted from recycled bicycle chain by the makers of Noah’s Ark.
A wallet is a Father’s Day gift that dad will not only love but use every day. You can even surprise him by sticking a gift card inside! This wallet was hand-stitched by makers in Colombia and made with upcycled materials.
Keep it lighthearted this Father’s Day with a funky pair of socks. With the purchase of these socks, our friends at Conscious Step will make a donation to resource centres in India where children from marginalized communities are given the opportunity to learn, read and write.
Gift dad with his favourite coffee this Father’s Day and spend some quality time drinking it with him. If he’s a coffee connoisseur, he might enjoy trying something different. Pair some coffee with any one of the handmade ceramic mugs from our collection.
Dads who have a sweet tooth will love getting chocolate for Father’s Day. Gather his favourite chocolate bars together and arrange them in a basket. Have him try something new and give him one of our Divine chocolate bars.
Spend some quality time with dad this Father’s Day and play a game with him. If he’s a fan of chess, gift him with a new chess set and then maybe let him win the next game. This chess set was hand carved by the makers of Dominion Traders.
What are you getting your dad for Father’s Day? Or what
would be the perfect gift for you for Father’s Day? Let us know in the comments