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Beyond Fair Wages–Keeping Girls in School


When you purchase a Fair Trade Designs product, you know you’re supporting fair wages for the person who made it.  But your purchases also support additional resources for the artisans, particularly when it comes to educating girls.

It’s difficult for girls in developing countries to receive an education past primary school. In most poor countries, families must pay for their child’s schooling. If they do somehow manage to set aside a small amount for schooling, most often it’s the boys in the family who receive secondary education.

Aside from the obvious economic barriers, there are cultural and social factors that preclude young girls from attending school. In India, 64% of adolescent girls are often forced to leave school early to care for younger siblings, help run the household, or for arranged marriages. It is not surprising that half of all girls in India 15 and older are illiterate.

Worldwide, the numbers are even more staggering. Out of the 700 million illiterate adults in the world, 2/3 are women. Sixty-three million girls (31 million primary-aged girls and 32 million secondary-aged girls) are not in school around our globe.

For these reasons, many of my fair trade wholesale partners fund the education of their artisans’ daughters. A few examples:

  • World Finds established their Girls Education Fund to provide additional resources to the most marginalized families in their artisan communities in India. Support includes tuition fees, school uniforms, transportation, books, and much more. Last year, increased orders from retailers like me allowed artisan groups to send three times as many girls to school.
  • Global Girlfriend supports GROW, Girls’ Right To Opportunity Worldwide. The non-profit provides funding for tuition, books, uniforms, and whatever is standing in the way for these girls in need. They currently have 70 girls on scholarships in different parts of the world.
  • Lumily directly pays the school fees for the children of the small group of Guatemalan women artisans who make their jewelry. This year they established a non-profit to provide additional resources for the women and their families.

By shopping fair trade, you’re helping keep girls around the world in school.



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How Not To Convince Friends To Buy Fair Trade

october-3October is a month full of months—and days.  The best-known is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  It’s also Pizza Month and Computer Learning Month.  Each day of October has multiple celebrations attached to it like World Farm Animals Day (10/2), Ship In A Bottle Day (10/4), Pierogi Day (10/8), and Be Bald and Free Day (10/14).

October is also Fair Trade Month, a time to talk about who and where our products come from.  But recent research suggests there are wrong and right ways to spread the word about ethical shopping. Continue Reading »

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Are Free Trade and Fair Trade The Same?

Many people seem to think free trade and fair trade are interchangeable phrases.  But they’re two very different concepts that can be hard to explain.

The Fair Trade Federation has created this brief overview of these two  complex topics.

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Women: The Backbone of Fair Trade

joyn-artisanWhenever I attend the various trade shows where many of my fair trade suppliers present their newest products, I am struck by the preponderance of women who have founded and run fair trade companies.  Their sole purpose is empowering marginalized artisans, 70% of whom are women.

A frequent comment from these dedicated women who work directly with impoverished workers is, “We don’t make a lot of money in this business, but that’s not why we’re in it.” Continue Reading »

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Poetry Embroidered on Cloth

Have you ever heard of Kantha quilting?  I hadn’t either until a couple of years ago when I saw fair trade products using the quilts.

The centuries-old technique was originated by poor women in Western Bengal to make quilts from their saris to keep their babies warm.  The quilts eventually became objects of hospitality, and even today in rural India are offered to guests in homes as a seat, serving as an expression of welcome.  Continue Reading »

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Zulugrass Jewelry and the Maasai Tribeswomen of Kenya



In 2001, a terrible drought persisted for several years in Kenya and brought devastation to the pasture lands. The livelihood of the indigenous Maasai disappeared as their cattle died.

The men had to drive the few remaining cattle hundreds of miles away in search of better grazing. The women left behind looked desperately for ways to feed, clothe, and educate their children and obtain medical supplies. Continue Reading »

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What exactly do those fair trade certified labels mean?

fair trade productsWhen you’re out grocery shopping and see a product with a logo that says “Fair Trade Certified,” what does it mean?  It depends on the logo and, because there are quite a few of them, it can get confusing.

So here’s a brief look at the major labels and what they signify: Continue Reading »

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