Fair Trade Federation Principles #1: Create Opportunity

12:00 PM

Number 1, creating opportunity where there are none, is incredibly rewarding. Even now 7 years after we started organizing our women's co-op in Nabapur, India. The number of women in the co-op at Nabapur has remained roughly around 270 for the last 4 years. However, there is a lot more work, so most of them are now working full time. 
Many of them earn more than their husbands. We had some families move for a variety of reasons and trained new replacements as needed. We still have a long list of hopefuls waiting for their chance to earn from home..for an opportunity.
We have found 270 to be our capacity in this community because we are limited by space in the community center. We are hoping someday we will have enough money to build a larger center to accommodate more women training, inventory, yarn storage...however, we have expanded to a 2nd community in called Atcara which is about 2 hours away.
Atcara, Shanty village is now organized and training is almost complete with the 6 women we found to have some knitting background to coach there. This village is unique in that it is not only composed of lower caste or untouchables but they also have gypsy heritage. I found many to have Aztek like features. They are known for their ability to sing to snakes. Most families have a variety of snakes that they keep for entertainment, protection from rodents and for cultural activities. We visited with them last May and were both delighted and heartbroken to meet these beautiful women.
In the midst of extreme poverty, they were so very gracious and welcoming to us. Jaya told me it is really hard for these people both men and women to find work because many Indians do not want anything to do with them. She said sometimes they do work and are not paid and other times the money is just tossed at them because many will not come near them.
When we got there Aroti who will be the leader of this co-op, who herself is a community organizer here had set-up a drop in clinic in her home and had arranged to have over 220 children vaccinated for Polio that day.
We are so excited to be working with her as she is very compliant and has a big heart for the women of this village. She was in tears when we explained what we had done in Nabapur and told her we wanted to grow the project to include her women. Among the mango and lychee trees we shared our vision for this project expansion and today there are 6 new coaches who have learned 10 new patterns.
We hope to introduce new products next year at the 2016 Housewares Show in Chicago. They have also learned to knit our best seller the Scrub Cloths in the traditional dishcloth pattern to support the production currently in Nabapur. By the end of this year, we expect to have 36 women begin production as our 6 coaches take on their first trainees.
-Anna Marie Stauss

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