You may have noticed, but we talk about our mission a lot. And why wouldn’t we? It’s the ultimate force that drives us to always do better and reach more people. It’s simple—we are a woman-owned company on a mission to do good and to expand the global marketplace of hardworking people in developing countries. Each purchase represents a building block for constructing a sustainable business that will provide income to people who need it most.
So, who are these people? How do they benefit from partnering with us?
We’re so happy you asked! Through the end of this year, we will be posting a series of articles that will highlight the many partnerships we have with our artisans from many countries. We love a good story around here and we think it’s important to share the stories of the amazing people you are supporting through your Fair Trade purchases.
Our first spotlight in the series will be focusing on India and the four groups of artisans we partner with there. Because there is so much to cover with these partnerships and the country itself, this will be the part one of a two-part post.
By the numbers.
Our partnerships in India total to about 75 individuals. Between them, they are located in the cities of Gujarat, New Delhi, Bhagalpur, and Uttar Pradesh.
Until May of 2018 when Nigeria took its place, India had remained the home to the largest number of people living in poverty for decades. With its rapidly growing population and its enduring struggle against poverty, India could not—and has yet to—overcome its economic crisis and is still home to 73 million people living below the poverty line. The cities of our artisan groups hold many of these 73 million, with Uttar Pradesh holding place as the poorest city in all of India.
Life for the average citizen looks exceedingly different than it does for us in the U.S. A shocking 20% of India’s population lives on less than $2/day. This includes costs for basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter to “luxuries” such as lighting and electricity, transportation, and running water in their homes. Many of our artisans were among the millions that face these challenges.
Caste to lives of repression.
As you could guess, people did not choose this lifestyle. This marginalized community is caused by the segregation and discrimination against social status and gender.
India's caste system is among the world's oldest forms of surviving social stratification. This 3000 year old system divides the population into four main categories that each hold a ranking in society. The upper castes receive special privileges and advantages while also having power to sanction repression on the lower castes. As a result, the lower castes work the menial jobs and live a life of less. Over half our artisans fell into this marginalized community.
Furthermore, women are severely discriminated against and treated unfairly, creating a wider gap in inequality between castes. In a heavily male-dominated society, women are disempowered and considered inferior simply because of their gender.
Cultural practices such as patrilineality—inheritance through male descendants—and patrilocality—married couples living with or near the husband’s parents—have instituted gender inequality for numerous centuries. With a culturally ingrained parental preference toward sons and with the dowry system—a cash or in-kind payment from the bride’s family to the groom’s at the time of marriage—the inequality is only reinforced and often leads to violence against women from their husbands and even in-laws.
This same inequality exists in the workforce. The already low wages women receive continues to decrease as they age. In a developing society like India, people who don’t generate economic value, like the elderly, lose their individual value. Women are not presented opportunities to earn a living for themselves starting at a young age and, consequently, their social disadvantages as they grow older only worsen.
Our goal is to provide opportunity to hardworking and deserving people to help break this cycle.
The story is only just beginning.
We emphasize working with groups of women due to the social disadvantages they tend to face in this country. We value our women because what they can provide is beyond valuable. We work to create opportunity and help give them a voice in their community while building up confidence within themselves.
We don’t see castes or gender as limitations to what our amazing artisans can achieve. We see opportunities for change and better lives.
These statistics and numbers can be hard to digest. They don’t give off the positivity we love to emulate; however, we can’t ignore the reality of the countries we are in partnership with. It’s one thing to partner with them to provide financial support, yet it’s another to educate ourselves about their daily lives and the state of their country to provide emotional support. Our mission to do good starts from within.
Next post we will dive deeper into what our artisans do and how their practices are helping to impact the environment for the better and to impact their own lives for the better. In the meantime, be sure to check out our Pinterest and Instagram to see photos of the beautiful women we support. Our story is only just beginning.