For the last year and a half, I’ve been stationed in Portland, Oregon where I started a Fair Trade business called AWAZ Voice for Empowerment, to help market handicrafts made by artisan groups I met in India when I was volunteering there in 2008. I teamed up with my good friend of 5 years from northern India, Talha, who coordinates the shipments and now we are partnering with five artisan groups who specialize in various handmade craft techniques to help promote an alternative trade movement that supports fair wages and healthy working conditions for artisans and women in the South. These groups are composed of women, the disabled and marginalized from rural and urban communities, and thanks to the help of local non profits and buyers like AWAZ, are receiving the skill training and support they need to earn a sustainable livelihood to improve their quality of life and get out of poverty.
I returned to India at the end of April 2010 to extend support to our partners and learn more about their work. This time, I teamed up with a Textile Designer from India, Jaya, who has been working with artisan groups for the last eight years, to help develop our product line and do some design sampling with the groups we work with. We spent two and a half weeks visiting our partners in Northern India to help make investments in their work and plan our ordering for the next year. Jaya was able to share a lot of expertise about working with artisan groups and how to develop our business and I got a real look at what’s been happening with Fair Trade and craft groups in India. I begin to share with you a little bit about my journey thus far, with experiences from World Fair Trade in Delhi, block printers in Jaipur and design, trainings and developments in Purkal. I’ll be in India until the end of June, capturing more about the growth of the Fair Trade movement and how groups are managing the change. I’m working with our web designers here in India to develop our e-commerce site and look forward to launching that when I return in July!! Keep you posted