Just spent an amazing three weeks in Nepal and India, experiencing the people, culture and most importantly, their beautiful handicrafts. Fair trade is about so many things; allowing people a fair wage for their beautiful work, working in a safe environment, respecting child labor laws, but it's also about sustaining an art form and a culture which is quickly dieing in the techno world in which we live. Like all over the world, including the US, so many of the Nepalese and Indian young are flocking to the big city with the hopes of making it big, or even just making it, in the cities. Village life is slow, but also has very few resources to sustain a family. Fair trade enables village to life to thrive by sustaining the art forms and hand crafts which has sustained these villages for decades. Woodworking, bell making, jewelry and embroidery making are all crafts which have been passed down for centuries. Today, in Nepal, felting has become a craft which helps sustain communities.
Watching our friend and fair trade distributor, Manish Gupta of Matre Boomie, interacting with the artisans throughout Northern India, makes me proud to say I work in the fair trade world. Manish treats each and every artisan as co-worker, showing that their relationship is truly two sided. Not only does Matre Boomie provide work for so many artisan groups but they also provide literacy classes, new kilns, pay in advance for their orders and ensure when something isn't working that they find a new design that will work.
Working in the fair trade world and seeing it up close and personal has been a dream. Fair trade works. And people who shop at fair trade stores make that dream happen every day for so many people in small villages throughout the world.
In fair trade circles, the talk today is often about the willfully ignorant. In the article do-these-jeans-make-me-look-unethical, Nurith Azenman explores the human psyche behind decisions such as fair trade purchases. "The study, which will be published in the July edition of the Journal of Consumer Psychology but is already available online, builds on earlier research suggesting that most shoppers experience a kind of ethical dissonance: If we're actually told that a specific product was produced in an unethical way, we won't want to buy it. Yet given the choice, most of us would rather not know the backstory.
Shopping at fair trade stores, online on Fair Trade sites or even at big box stores that have a fair trade section, allows consumers to make a conscious decision about how they want to spend their money. As the movement grows, so does the number and styles of products one can find that are also treat producers fairly. What was once only a term applied to coffee, cocoa and olive farmers has blossomed into hundreds of gifts in the forms of clothing, housewares, jewelry and food. Fair trade networks work hard to solidify a transparent and sustainable relationship which often means encouraging styles and colors that appeal to different audiences, both in the US and overseas. Don't fall for the misconception that fair trade means bohemian or ethnic. Fair trade products can be every bit as stylish as any non fair trade items.
This is not to say that anything and everything can be found to be produced fairly - I wish! But when you can buy something that has supported artisans in lesser developed countries, why not do so? You can't change the world overnight, but your purchase truly MAKES A DIFFERENCE in someone's world.