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The People Behind the Products

Fair trade is an initiative that ensures that the people making the products that we buy get a fair wage for the work that they do.

Asha Handicrafts – Bringing Hope to Hundreds

India with such a rich diversity of culture, climate and people is one of the largest handcraft-producing countries in the world. A quick glance through the new Created Gifts (formerly known as Tearcraft) catalogue will leave us in no doubt of the amazing variety of crafts and products available.

With so many people making craft items competition for sales can lead to the items we admire being made in hopeless situations where producers are paid low wages and end up in bondage to money lenders. The Fair Trade principles of Created Gifts ensures that half the value of an order is paid when it is placed, the balance being paid to the partners, like Asha, when the order is shipped to the UK. Asha and Created are members of the World Fair Trade Organisation which means they are monitored to ensure that they are working with fair trade principles.

Partners like Asha, based locally to producers, build up a relationship of support with the producers. Not only do the advice on design, quality, collecting samples and shipping they are also are responsible for placing the order with a workshop and dealing with artisan groups who are working with their artisans in a fairly traded way.

Created Gifts works through Christian led fair trade partners, such as Asha. Asha was established in 1975 as a Christian fair trade organisation. Asha gives marketing support and technical assistance to groups of small producers and craftsmen and women. By purchasing directly from the workers and giving generous advances, they increase income and help groups become self-sufficient. Asha is appropriately named, as ‘asha’ is Hindi for hope!

The story of Rafique Ahmed designer and maker of the ever popular Nose Glasses-holder (appearing in the catalogue for a record breaking 11th time) and the Cat Puzzle Box (making its 9th appearance) illustrates how the support of Asha has made a difference to many lives:

Rafique was a skilled carpenter, but was unable to get work. Asha gave him a grant of £50 (supplied by Tearfund) for wood and tools and one of the samples he produced was the Nose Glasses-holder. Tearcraft / Created placed an order for them and so yet another group of people had the dignity of earning their own living. Two years later the sample of the Cat puzzle Box was submitted and chosen for the 2002 range.

Through your purchases a small business, providing work for at least a dozen people, was born and has continued to grow nurtured by Asha.

Sadly Rafique died of a Heart Attack July so the support his wife, children and nephew are receiving, particularly from Asha’s social worker like Victor Harris (see page 48 in Created Catalogue), at this time is invaluable.

Asha also helps producers to develop their product range. Another great favourite is the Stone Cat and Mouse –this year they are joined by a Mum and Baby stone Elephant, which I suspect will be equally popular. Both are made in Agra by R C Marble started by Ramesh, who following a stroke, has now handed the running of the business on to his sons. R C Marble has been working with Asha since 1980. Originally they cut and ground the stone in their home, but now they have a purpose built workshop which I had the privilege of visiting in January 2008.

Ramesh and his sons spoke warmly not only of the support he received from Asha immediately after his stroke but also of the sponsorship from Asha and Tearfund to enable them to build the new workshop. If you want an idea of the difference that having the new workshop has made have a look at the clip on the Created website – www.createdgifts.org - of the Amazing Elephant being made, then just imagine that sort of dust in your front room!!

Nomads Natural, Beautiful Original Clothing

For Nomads trading fairly with their producers has always been the only way to do business: Nomads believes “trade not aid” is the best way to create both sustainable and profitable livings for the producers.

Recently customer interest has encouraged Nomads to explore further the work they can do to promote traditional crafts and have a positive effect on the livelihoods of their producers. The production of Handspun and Handloomed fabric used to make tailored coats and skirts provides a sustainable and viable living for many small family workshops in Uttar Pradesh.

The traditional word for Handloom in India is “Khadi”. Behind the name is a belief in self-sufficiency and fairness for grass roots artisans. During the independence struggle Mahatma Gandhi began promoting Khadi in order to support this sustainable cottage industry.

The subtle beauty of Hand Block Printing and Natural Dying featured in Nomads’ clothes provide the main source of income for producer groups in Bagru. The natural dyes are environmentally friendly using locally grown plants and minerals which gives this printing process a quality which cannot be duplicated by machine.

The unique hand embroidery that embellishes both coats and jackets and bags is another skill which provides an essential means of income for women in rural, tribal and urban slum areas.

The Sadhna group which produces hand-stitched cotton bags not only provides training and regular employment to women but also gives them ownership of the business, giving them a voice on all business decisions and the benefits from profits gained.

Kanta Devi has lived all her life in Devali, a rural village near Udaipur. As a child she was not given the opportunity to go to school and by the age of 12 she was married. In the years that followed she relied solely on her husband’s small income to support her and their children.

Suddenly her husband died and she was left a widow without any kind of financial support. She was desperate to find work and went out into the village where she met some of the women who were already involved in the handicraft work of Sadhna. She didn’t waste any time and quickly joined a training programme.

Today Kanta is working regularly for Sadhna and is able to sustain her family life with dignity and most importantly she can afford to send her children to school.

Throughout Nomads’ collection of clothes there are items which are completely unique, many are made from recycled saris: Each year in August, around the time of the full moon, brothers celebrate their sisters by giving them a gift of a sari. All over India unwanted saris are collected from households in exchange for pots.

Recycling silk saris has grown into a viable trade for many small businesses in India, providing an endless array of colours and prints. No two sari silk garments are exactly the same, but all have the quality and benefits from the ability of silk to keep the wearer warm in winter and cool in summer.

So whether it is floating swirl of the tiered sari silk skirt or the stunning embroidered coat which has caught your attention, come and enjoy a selection from Nomads’ Autumn / Winter collection at fair2all. If there is a particular garment you would like to try please contact us so we can order it in the size and colour you would like to see.