Two Inspiring Business Women Show How Fair Trade Can Create Sustainable Livelihoods In India.


With World Fair Trade Day coming up next week, 13th May, this week's Pecha Kucha ezine from The Natural Store is all about Fair Trade products. They feature two particularly interesting stories about women who gave up their regular jobs to start Fair trade businesses importing hand crafted products from India. Siobhan Wilson started Kolkata in 2004 after a friend sent her a beautiful greeting card made in Calcutta by a mute person. Martha Slipp had a similar desire to make a difference through her Fair Trade business Martha Evatt which sells bags made in India. After receiving her card Siobhan decided to go to India to see how groups like Silence were working with handicapped people to help them become economically independent. She now sources products for Kolkata from various organisations working with impoverished and dispossessed people to create sustainable livelihoods. "I have met people who set up charities to help women who have been made homeless due to domestic violence and abuse. There are people training street children in a craft to ensure they have a skill to earn a living once they leave their orphanages. I have had the honour of meeting women embroiderers from Kolkata's villages whose work in a collective has granted them a much higher position in their communities than they could ever have hoped to achieve."

Martha Slipp was inspired to start her Fair trade business whilst on a work trip to Sri Lanka. "I was seeing real people, putting real sweat, into making their goods and trying to make a living for their families. I began to think about what I could do to help them and so, after a lot of thought and wondering, I left my shoe job and set out on a mission to source and deliver a fantastic range of fairly traded handbags I also had a question to answer — "Is it possible to source a fantastic product and provide a livelihood in places that really need it at the same time?" Martha Evatt nows sells beautiful bags made by craftsmen in Bombay and also has a range of Kimono bags inspired by Martha's time in Japan. She hopes that they also will soon be made in India. The really good news is that she has recently found an organic cotton supplier that she wants to source fabric from for the next collection.

Both these stories are inspiring to any of us who worry that as individuals we can't possibly make a difference in this world. Both Siobhan and Martha took calculated risks to create their businesses, but their success shows that, even working on a small scale, it is possible to have a positive effect on other people's lives. As Martha says "I knew that making a few bags was not going to solve the massive problem of slum-dwellers in India, but I was horrified by the reality of people living in true poverty and just felt compelled to start to do something about it." I am sure most of us feel like we want to help but don't know where to start. Thank you to Pecha Kucha for bringing us two stories of women who wanted to do something and did! All Kolkata and Martha Evatt products are available at The Natural Store. ::Pecha Kucha