Our relationship with global artisans and their handmade craft matters a great deal. We do have a role in this; it affects change.
When we choose artisans and the beauty of handmade, we make a statement to the world.
They are the women and men around the globe who make, innovate and create handcrafted objects that are a delight for the eyes, rich to the touch, and accent uniquely in our homes and on our bodies. Their work is exceptionally fine crafted and designed, blending their cultural aesthetics with our modern lifestyles.
Global artisans are the keepers of their cultural heritage, preserving ancient craft traditions, passing their knowledge and talent down through generations.
But as the effects of colonization, war, displacement, and globalization have challenged their lives over the past centuries, so too have their livelihoods and cultures been threatened.
Movements by international organizations began to address the needs of artisans around the world, working with them as income-generating initiatives to revitalize their crafts and create market access. The social and economic movement we now refer to as fair trade had its beginnings nearly seven decades ago.
Fair trade organizations positioned a more equitable international trading partnership for marginalized small scale producers, assuring them fair wages, better working conditions, equal access, and economic empowerment. US and European buyers, increasingly concerned with exploitive practices of artisans and farmers, helped raise awareness and advocate the benefits of fair trade to their customers. Today, there are thousands of organizations and social enterprises around the world that advance fair trade practices.
The global artisan sector shows impressive numbers. According to Alliance for Artisan Enterprise Impact Report 2014, it’s the second largest employer in the developing world after agriculture; 65% of artisan activity takes place in developing economies; and it’s a $34 million dollar market.
The social and economic impact to the artisans themselves when fair trade principles are practiced is impressive. There are countless real stories of artisans’ lives transformed when given the opportunity to earn an income for themselves and provide for their families. When given access, training, and resources, they can thrive and inspire others, often becoming agents of change in their own communities. This is the power of women's empowerment in action.
When we choose fair trade handmade, we are choosing to impact local economies in very real and direct ways.
When we choose fair trade handmade, we empower positive change for global artisans. And ourselves.