Bangladesh Artisans

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.

Web ImagesI’ll just come out and admit it: I’m seriously coveting this year’s Reindeer Cushion. (It seems a lot of you are too – the online stock is almost gone.)

The cushion is a perfect example of what fair trade looks like today: Contemporary. Beautiful. Handmade. And, yes, a little trendy.

As a customer, it’s also a product that I can feel good about buying or giving this season (although, sorry, I’m keeping mine!). Not only do I love the way it looks, but because it comes from Ten Thousand Villages, I’ll never have that niggling worry that I’m improving my own life at the expense of someone else’s.

festive1Decorating my home in holiday style is one of my favourite things to do this time of year! I love adding lights, sparkle and fun festive accessories to change up the look of my home.

I thought it would be fun to try two completely different styles on my mantel this year, to see which one best suits my style. I like both of these options quite a lot, so I’d love to hear from you which one is your favourite!

“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

blog-top-imageFor more than 20 years, Pantone has surveyed New York Fashion Week and previewed the most important colour trends for the coming season. For Fall 2014, Pantone selected 10 colours that “Transcend Time and Place.”

Interestingly, the selections of colours are probably not the typical colours you are used to seeing for this time of year. The Executive Director of the Pantone Colour Institute explains: “This is a season of untypical colors — more reflective of the imagination and ingenuity, which makes for an artful collection of colors and combinations not bound by the usual hues for fall.”

I decided it would be fun to create a few looks based on this colour palette with some of my favourite accessories here at Ten Thousand Villages.

artisan-rafia-nasir-s72I sit beside Rafia Nasir on the loom, where she works on a 6’ x 9’ Persian rug with her two sisters.

Rafia is a new mom, just like I am. She holds her nearly eight-month-old little girl, letting her grab at the taut warp threads as she takes a break from her work. Rafia chuckles as I have to run and change my son’s diaper, tossing him down on her charpai – a rope bed, in the middle of her home – and asking if she minds if I change him there. It’s my son’s first trip to the villages of Pakistan. And at age two, he’s taking it all in, including the chicken running into the house from the outside courtyard.

79 - PhilippinesWe periodically receive questions from customers such as:

  • Why does Ten Thousand Villages buy products from the specific groups you work with?
  • Why do you import from those particular countries and regions?
  • Are you open to adding new groups from new countries?

Ten Thousand Villages’ mission is to create “opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.” This drives everything we do, and we will not compromise our commitment to our Fair Trade principles.

RS7280_L1027903-scrTurning off a bustling street in Kolkata, on to a dirt road, we were suddenly transported into a quiet village where the noise of the city was silenced. Children ran along the dirt roads and adults talked amongst themselves in the streets, while open fires warmed a late afternoon snack of samosas. We were led through a metal gate and down a grassy path. We then entered a workshop full of cotton, silk and thread.

It was here that we met the women of the Panchannagram Mahila Samity workshop where, 32 years ago, they formed their workshop and started to stitch beautiful stories through fabric and the traditional Kantha stitch.

1-Boys and bowlAfter moments of less-than-stellar parenting, I will often quip, “There goes my Mother of the Year Award!”

But with Mother’s Day approaching, it always gives me pause to think about how I am doing as a Mom. Are my boys happy? How healthy are they? They look clean, but where’s that smell coming from? Do they laugh enough? Am I teaching them what it means to be socially responsible people? Are they learning the importance of generosity? Are they compassionate?

Botswana BasketYou know that moment when you are in complete awe of something? And as you embrace it, you think to yourself, “I wish *insert name* were here to witness this with me?”
I had that moment at the end of an amazing experience in Botswana in 2010. But instead of having to wish my mother was there with me, I could look to my side and see that she was just as captivated as I was.

I had somehow convinced my mother to travel with me to Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa for three weeks to volunteer at a nature reserve and a Girl Guide Youth Centre. Still amazed that she even got on the plane, she doesn’t stop talking about the experience.