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
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.
I’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.
Decorating 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.”
For 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.
I 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.
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.
Turning 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.
After 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?