Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fair Trade Calendar Results

So, the calendar competition is over with amazing photos to show for it. Not only will the 12 pics that received the most votes get featured each month, but every entry will appear throughout the 2010 calendar. I can't wait to see what this design firm, Design Action a worker-owned collective will do with the photos and Fair Trade info we're providing them.

Tex Dworkin, working for Global Exchange was the originator of this idea and has been spearheading all - from conception to finished product to sales and marketing. I'm a worker bee...and glad to be.

While I would have looked into environmentally friendly paper and soy-based ink, I don't know that I would have had sources like Consolidated Printing who coerced New Leaf paper to greatly reduce their price to make the calendars more affordable as a fundraiser. Or that I would have been astute enough to hire a design firm that is worker-owned, which translates to fair trade right here in the USA.

I also just finished a nearly 3 hour conference call with the Fair Trade Federation Board members. Phew! Talk about everything you need to know about Fair Trade! While I won't go into details about the meeting, I will say, there are varying levels of Fair Trade and many mindsets. Not a hard and fast rule, necessarily and certainly when talking about practices. Which leads me to this blog...

I am coming to the realization that we all have a place on this planet and that the die-hards can co-mingle with the novices and each can learn from the other. I find that in the shop, I tend to get defensive. Oh, you're just like 10,000 villages. No, I'm not. Sure, we have a common goal - provide a safe, secure, sustainable environment where the neediest are given some attention for their labors. With that, we also want to make sure there is some environmental stewardship for everyone's future.

But the women I work with are small groups, working from their homes, working when they can. I have come to the conclusion lately that creating a factory setting where they produce for a wide number of retail stores would do San Bushmen women in particular more harm than good. While my friend's paper bead org in Uganda has over 100 women as members, with thousands more making hundreds of pieces of jewelry from recycled materials for other orgs. Ostrich Eggshell is precious, with eggs only hatched three months out of the year. Recycled paper is in abundance. The San women live in settlements that they are happy to call home. They have many of their needs provided for them in one way of another and so don't truly NEED cash, they could use more, but they can survive with limited amounts. The women in the Acholi Quarter are relocated refugees who must live in shanti towns. They live in a cash society. They need to make money to buy food, put their children to school, live...The women have different situations and so does each wholesaler. Our jobs are to educate the public with awareness, let people know what the living conditions of people are in third world countries and through the sale, offer a way for us to help.

But I don't want the idea of charity to enter into my business. I firmly believe that a business relationship is what is needed to honor the skill and artistry of the crafter/producer and that a fair payment is what will enable artisans to sustain their skill, not a hand out. I'm not a religious person, but gotta love the "teach a man to fish" analogy. Give a woman a dollar and she'll eat for that day, provide her a means to sustain a business and earn a fair wage and you feed her and her family forever. With her elevation in financial means/status, she brings a world of hope and promise to her children and her children's children

I have a greater appreciation of what that means in terms of people like me who have small groups that we work with directly and those who work with larger groups providing products to "chain" stores. As it is, I will be opening another store this holiday season with the promise of keeping it open should there prove to be a market here in Poughkeepsie.

With Fair Trade ideals just coming to Main St America (god I hate catch phrases like that!), there's a lot of room to grow, a lot of ways to see the end results and in the end we will all be better off realizing that people live at different standards around the world and how much we can help, what we can do, and how we do it is going to change and differ depending...It all depends on us.

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