For us here at Purse & Clutch, Fair Trade is not simply a certification for meeting minimum requirements or a catch phrase marketing plan. It has taught us a new rhythm to live by. Or perhaps more accurately, living in this new, more intentional rhythm has brought us into the world of Fair Trade.
I've been spending some time reflecting on what Fair Trade has taught me in the last few years of owning Purse & Clutch.
1. How things are made matters.
Photo from JOYN, India
In a world of fast food and fast fashion, it's easy to begin to believe that everything is expendable. We rarely see the process behind a product or meal's creation - out of sight, out of mind. At a typical grocery store you wouldn't even know that veggies are grown seasonally. (It's still weird to me that a hamburger is usually garnished with lettuce - a winter veggie, and tomatoes - a summer veggie!)
Fair Trade fashion places such importance on the details and such care is put into every step of the process. I've been learning to put more care into how I make things as well.
Action item: Pick one area that you want to focus on making with care. Maybe it's your lunch or maybe it's your next interaction with your best friend. Try focusing on the how and observe it's effect on you.
2. Slow down & enjoy the process.
Photo from JOYN, India
So many of the artisan groups we partner with aren't looking for the most efficient way to make their products. They spend hours handcrafting and hand dying threads that will be hand woven into amazing patterns that simply cannot be re-created by a machine. They appreciate the process and the hard work it takes to perfect their art.
I, on the other hand, like to be efficient. Running errands in a logical way around the city with zero backtracking brings me unexplainable joy. The more I can slow down my racing thoughts and be present even in something as simple as running my errands, the richer my experiences and the more I appreciate the little things that make up a day. I begin to see those I come in contact with as people and can enter in their lives - their joys and their pains. The beauty of the process takes hold.
Action item: Pick one thing you do every day (making your bed, getting dressed in the morning, dropping your child off at school) and slow it down. Consciously don't rush through it, but think about the components of the task and find joy in the process.
3. We really can make a difference.
Photo from Craftworks Cambodia
It starts with helping to create one job for one artisan in one country.
It continues with choosing to make purchases from companies who fairly compensate their artisans.
Let me share with you the story of Malti, a woman who works with JOYN, one of our partner groups based out of India:
Malti started out with JOYN at the age of 16 as part of their street youth training program. When they first met her, she had a special sparkle in her sweet face even though it was usually hidden under a few layers of dirt leftover from her time digging through trash to find bottles to turn in for money. Malti, though surrounded by a sea of peers who have chosen to beg on the streets, never gave in. She has an air of dignity that pours out from within her silly and giggly exterior.
When you look at Malti, you would never know that she is the main breadwinner for her household, a small shack on the outside of town. She not only manages to take care of herself and work a full-time job with JOYN, but she also prepared meals and takes care of three other siblings. She has an internal strength that most of us spend our lives trying to muster up. She is not only a survivor, she is a thriver. She desires to extend the blessings that she has been given beyond herself and on to her family. That is why when she approached JOYN several months ago with a proposal to take out a small loan, they could not refuse. She sat dow with one of the JOYN managers and had them write out a formal proposal for the loan, explaining that it would allow her to buy land for her family - and in turn, secure a future for them.
Malti is a dreams, and now one of her dreams is coming to fruition. That is what JOYN and other Fair Trade communities are all about: allowing people to dream who otherwise wouldn't have the freedom to do so. Malti is now in the process of paying back her loan on a monthly basis out of her salary.
Action Item: Decide on one small thing you can change that will have a positive effect on the world. Maybe you choose to switch to Fair Trade Coffee or choose not to purchase from a certain store. Now go do it!
We'd love to hear some of the things you're going to try this week to focus on how things are made, to slow down and enjoy the process, and to make a difference. Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook Page.
Author: Jen Lewis is Owner & Director of Purse & Clutch. You can connect with Jen on Google+. She has been running P&C since 2011 and gets excited about connecting resources to needs.