Women Leaders in Global Fair Trade: Part Two

In continuation of our series focusing on Women Leaders in the Global Fair Trade Movement. See Part One here.

Le Khanh (second from left) and My (far right), with women artisans who are earning a fair wage through their crochet work in Vietnam.

Le Khanh (second from left) and My (far right), with women artisans who are earning a fair wage through their crochet work in Vietnam.

Le Phuong My is one of the founders of our partner Mai Handicrafts in Vietnam. My and Le Khanh, who are social workers, wanted to create income-generation and educational programs for people living in poverty in Vietnam. After learning about fair trade and the tangible change it develops, they developed opportunities for the disadvantaged to create handcrafts. My tells us “When we worked as social workers we did not see the change in our clients’ lives as much as when we work with our artisans now. We can see that they are proud of what they do and how their families have changed. We are also happy when we see them improve their lives, their children can attend university, or they can rebuild their house. These results have proved that we have gone the right way in pursuing work in fair trade. “

Basma Barham with Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society

Basma Barham with Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society

Basma Barham joined the fair trade movement when she began working for Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society in Bethlehem. She previously worked in the private sector for 17 years, but always felt something was missing. She is proud to put her energy into improving quality of life for artisans in Bethlehem. “I am so glad to be part of spreading fair trade principles, I love to work together with many people towards one goal …all of us are thinking, wishing, and working for the same – ‘fair trade’.”

With financial support from Serrv and Catholic Relief Services, HLHCS recently renovated a woodworker’s workshop. The shop has improved working conditions – it is now a clean, well-organized and safe place for the employees there. Basma tells us that the improvements have also lifted the spirits of the workers, helping them better realize what fair trade means and their right to work in a safe environment.

Roopa Mehta of Sasha, India

Roopa Mehta of Sasha, India

“The idea of working with craftspeople to empower them not only economically but socially brought me to Sasha in 1978. Since then I have been continually inspired by the change I see in the artisans and in their children, and how fair trade directly connects with the Social Development Goals of the United Nations. Our work contributes substantially to creating a fairer and more sustainable world!” – Roopa, Sasha, India

Roopa is the leader of Sasha, a fair trade organization that empowers artisans economically and socially. She learned about the mission of the organization from a friend almost 40 years ago, and decided to change career tracks and work with Sasha. Roopa values the change fair trade has brought to the lives of Sasha’s artisans, with new knowledge and skills to effectively manage their businesses. She is also glad to see the children of artisans becoming interested in continuing the family businesses with their education and access to wider markets.

Hani Duarsa (front) with artisans who work with Mitra Bali

Hani Duarsa (front) with artisans who work with Mitra Bali

After working in corporate tourism and banking in Bali, Hani Duarsa discovered a passion for fair trade and the good it does for artisans who are taken advantage of in Bali’s tourist sector. With her business skills she has helped Mitra Bali, one of Serrv’s partners, improve their systems and processes. “I am proud to have practiced fair trade in my business and myself. Our world today is changing very rapidly, dictated by giant corporations, making us much more consumptive. There needs to be a change, and I believe through fair trade, a fair and wonderful world is possible. “

Pushpika Frietas (front center) and artisans with MarketPlace: Handwork of India

Pushpika Frietas (front center) and artisans with MarketPlace: Handwork of India

When Pushpika Frietas founded MarketPlace: Handwork of India, her goal was to provide women in Mumbai with dignified employment and the flexibility of earning a living while caring for their homes and families. The artisans the organization works with are uneducated and have no other opportunities to earn a living. Within their cooperatives, they have developed a sense of community and companionship, advising and supporting one another. They are actively involved in running their cooperatives and making decisions, which has led to their becoming active leaders in their communities. 

“What inspired me most is that, given a small opportunity, the women enthusiastically take it and make much more of it. They are so committed to improving themselves, their lives, and to giving their children better opportunities,”  Pushpika shares.

At Serrv, we are proud and honored to work with so many strong leaders, many of them women, who are passionate about improving the lives of the artisans and farmers they work with. We continue to be inspired by their dedication and partnership!