THIS IS WHAT FAIR TRADE IS ALL ABOUT.
- Jonit Bookheim
- 20 Feb, 2013
A few months ago, I told you about Sunita, a once-shy and exploited artisan who found empowerment through fair trade. She started her own fair trade artisan cooperative, called Sunita Handicrafts, and Mata Traders is one of their customers. Her group has made such pieces as the Tiered Wooden Necklace:
Sunita Handicrafts is located in a slum neighborhood on the outskirts of Delhi, and through her work, Sunita has become a leader in her community. She is one of the main organizers involved in establishing a new community medical center. She visits families in the community one by one to explain the importance of the medical center and how to get involved.
The way the medical center works is that adults must join for an initial cost of 250 rupees ($4.63 USD). After that, doctor visits cost only 10 rupees (19¢) and any medicine they need is dispensed by the doctor free of charge. Children are covered under their parent’s enrollment. In the first year of existence, the center already has over 800 members.
Sunita explained to me that normally the cost of visiting a doctor would be much higher, so this center has made medical treatment much more accessible to the people in her community.
Above the medical center, is a room with 6 computers where computer training is held. The space doubles as a meeting room, where it is customary to sit on the floor.
Next door to the medical center is a community center that houses a vocational training center for young women to learn how to sew. There are 18 students (women age 16 – 45) and more will be joining when the program can acquire more sewing machines.
Notice the foot pedal powered sewing machines – how carbon neutral!
In the room above the sewing class is an after-school program for children. This is a supplement to the government-run public school that they attend.
The lesson of the day was telling time.
The children are between the ages of 4 and 12 years old. There are 129 students that make up 3 classes, which are taught in shifts.
Joshi is a social worker and grassroots organizer for over 19 years. After we met Sunita in her cooperative (where she told us about these amazing initiatives in her community), it was Joshi who took me and Kristin on a tour of the medical center, computer lab, sewing class, and after-school program. He told us that the quality of education the children receive in public schools is poor and stressed how beneficial the after-school program is to these kids.
Our tour ended with some of the kids taking turns performing a song for us in front of the class.
Sunita Handicrafts is part of a larger fair trade organization that for decades has been a leading advocate and organizer of marginalized artisans and through which, Mata Traders makes all of our jewelry. The programs in Sunita’s community have been developed and financed through their work, in partnership with an international funder. But, the outside funds are merely a portion of the start up costs of the medical center. These programs will continue to be self-funded through fair trade and community participation.
What’s next on Sunita’s plate? She’s helping initiate a micro-credit program for people in the community to start their own businesses. She says there’s a problem with people being unable to start their own ventures as tradesmen: plumbers, electricians, etc. After talking to hundreds of families, she’s determined that access to income is the most pressing need.
Sunita asked me to tell our customers about the work they are doing in her cooperative and community. Through fair trade, she has seen her neighbors improve their standard of living, able to feed their families and send their kids to school. She hopes that you will continue to support their work! Thank you!