Years ago, I remember asking a woman artisan what her dream was. She said she didn’t understand that question. She could not imagine life outside of her everyday reality.
We hear a lot of discussion about women’s empowerment when talking about Fair Trade. Empowerment itself is a big term and it has taken me time to understand that. Here is how I understand this term in the context of women artisans in India, and I suspect it applies to many developing countries.
India is a male dominated society, and the male members make most decisions regarding family/community matters. Women are tasked with the job of taking care of the household and children but rarely given the opportunity to express their opinion on important matters.
There are 3 main factors that lead to this social structure:
- Men are the prime income generator in the family
- Women are not aware of their rights like land ownership, voting, etc.
- Women are often uneducated and stay at home which makes them unaware and disconnected from the larger society
In low-in come communities, the bread earner of the family draws a big say. One of the most important impacts of fair trade on women artisans is that these women, who in many cases have learned these art forms from their mothers and grandmothers as a way to embellish their homes, are now suddenly able to make a living on their own by selling their crafts. Many women that Matr Boomie works with have made their first income making our products. This is the first key step. Trading activities also force these women to travel and interact with larger society. This starts to give these women immense exposure and an understanding of their rights. They start to make independent decisions and start to feel confident as an individual. They start deciding how they want to use their income. These factors slowly allow them to build a vision for themselves, their family, and even their community.
In order for real change to occur our partner communities need constant guidance and trade opportunity that Fair Trade principles are committed to. Matr Boomie focuses on working with women artisans as much as possible. Our India team, SETU, has conducted over 10 vocational training workshops for women in low-income areas. We run three literacy centers for women teaching them how to read and write. We have created three women clusters for production activities.
We are proud of so many of our women artisan partners. They have shown tremendous courage, making their voice heard against so many challenges. These are the faces that inspire us to keep going. This Mother’s Day we salute these women.
Together, let's take a pledge to create many more such dreams across the world!
-Manish Gupta, Founder, Matr BoomiE
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