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  • Writer's pictureMESH

About Fair Trade

Ask ChatGPT about Fair Trade and it very nicely tells you this:-

Fair trade is a trading partnership aimed at promoting sustainability, better trading conditions, and improved rights for marginalized producers and workers, particularly in developing countries. It ensures fair prices, safe working conditions, and sustainable practices while empowering producers and communities.

So how do we do Fair Trade in MESH?  First of all, we are members of The World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) who operate under ten principles of fair trade.  Those principles are simply explained with the symbols below. 

WFTO has a well-developed system to measure our compliance against those principles and direct us towards continuous improvement. So, this year for example, we will complete our own Self-Assessment Report by answering 32 pages of questions and provide supporting evidence.  Then later in the year a desk officer in WFTO headquarters with review our performance and guide us to improvements. There will be a final audit in 2025 when a licensed auditor will spend time with us and the groups we buy from, looking closely at how we are measuring up.

That is how it works and is monitored but how about the impact on the men and women artisans we work with.

Let’s start with KUKA a small leprosy colony located about five hours drive from Delhi here in N. India.  They have a weaving unit and make most of the cotton handloom kitchen linen that we export around the world. We have built their capacity in the past from weaving only with regular yarn to now weaving also with organic cotton. That change led to more orders from Europe. Their current situation is that their looms are often too busy for sampling so MESH is currently seeking funding to buy an extra loom and employ a skilled weaver who can sample for them throughout the year without disrupting any production against orders.

We have also seen that the leadership and management in KUKA rests with just one man; as a fair trade activity we are trying to build their sustainability by seeking funding for them to take an apprentice to learn the dyeing and weaving operations work. In that way KUKA will be strengthened for continuous work throughout the year, which in tern means a more stable income for the individual weavers and their families.

Two men standing and looking at a fair trade poster. Two women sitting down holding the same poster. They are in an office and this is a fair trade training session
Rohit (top right) (who has cerebral palsy) using a fair Trade poster to teach about Fair Trade and the environment.

Four team members from two Delhi based producer groups joined us a week or so ago for a training session on understanding the ten standards of fair trade which was conducted by our own staff team. Promotion of fair trade and bringing the issues to a greater understanding is another aspect of Fair Trade and one that we find helps producer groups think about their own working conditions, transparency and accountability etc. Our staff team includes people without much formal education and one young man with cerebral palsy who is non-vocal. Each one of them was encouraged to read up on the ten principles and guided how to make their presentations. The training was a success with the trainees grasping the practicalities of fair trade and the staff empowered and given confidence to present in public.

Little Flower is a leprosy colony in Bihar.  They have a weaving workshop that works with cotton and hand spun silk. Several years ago their skilled dyer left for another job and since then they have depended upon commercial dyers to get their work done.  MESH has now arranged for two men from Little Flower to go to KUKA and learn about cotton dyeing from Janardan. Again, strengthened groups as both the trainer and the trainees benefit from the experience.

There are very few fair trade businesses in India.  If you care about giving opportunities to marginalized people (like those with leprosy or disabilities) and want to be sure that artisans are not exploited in production, that no children are involved and that the working conditions are monitored and good and that the environment is always considered when making products, then please come into our store in Uday Park Market in New Delhi or buy from our online store.  Your purchases change lives and can contribute to a a more equitable world.

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