Handcrafted Fair-trade Fashion Goods from India
Earlier this year
Celina Connor wrote to tell me about MarketPlace and Handwork of India.
MarketPlace: Handwork of India
is a non profit
organization that provides fair trade employment to women in India by selling
their handmade apparel and interiors within the United States. MarketPlace is an
incredible organization with an extraordinary mission and their current theme is
fashions, Redesigning destinies'. They also recently hosted a fashion show at the
Chicago Cultural Centre's 'Fair Trade: Dignity by Design' which was a presentation in
of World Fair Trade Day on May 14th and some of the garment images are shown on
this page. An article about the work of
Marketplace is also reprinted
Shel Mae Reinwald
Manager of San Francisco Global Exchange Fair Trade Store wrote the article
Fair Trade Spotlight:
Marketplace of India
low-income women through dignity, not charity.
In an age of corporate irresponsibility, more and more consumers are asking
questions about the origins of the products they buy. An awareness
movement that began with organic food now encompasses everything from clothing
to cars, as people demand products that are socially responsible and
Marketplace of India - an apparel and home textile company started in 1980
to employ and empower poor women in Bombay - is among the enterprises meeting
that demand. Beginning with three women whose marketable skills were
limited to hand stitching, Marketplace has grown to include multiple
cooperatives employing hundreds of women artisans.
Women around the globe bear the brunt of responsibility for the health,
education and general welfare of their families. Yet culture and tradition
have denied women the rights and freedom to have the economic power to meet
those responsibilities. Women often are expected to accept decisions made
for them by their husbands and parents, while being forced to surrender control
of their finances and thus jeopardize the welfare of their children.
Marketplace of India
is changing that.
Self Improvement and Social Programs
The women of
Marketplace are empowered to believe in themselves, to speak out and express
their wishes, and to learn new skills. Programs that have been developed
and managed by the artisans themselves include 'The Artisans Speak,' which lets
the women decide on a theme for each Marketplace catalog; 'Social Action,' in
which the women decide on a social problem in their community that they wish to
change (such as alcoholism or lack of women’s health programs); and 'The
Children’s Education Fund,' which is run by older children for the benefit of
the younger ones and includes such programs as summer camps and libraries.
The Power of Independence
As wage earners,
Marketplace artisans gain the confidence to take part in the decision-making
processes of their families, as well as being an integral part of an artisan
group. Marketplace’s goals include involving the artisans directly in
every aspect of business - from designing, managing and producing products, to
tagging and packing boxes to ship to the US.
processes the artisans learn to take control and manage their finances.
And since Marketplace’s products are primarily hand stitched, the women can take
their work home, enabling them to look after their families while they earn an
Change for the Better
Over the years,
Marketplace has initiated amazing quality of life improvements for many people.
Life expectancy for Marketplace artisans has increased to 62 years from the
national average of 54 years for women. The average female child of a
Marketplace artisan will finish the 10th grade, while most Indian girls only
complete 4th. Marketplace artisans work an average of 9 months of the
year; most artisans had no income before becoming part of a cooperative.
Marketplace offers no handouts. All of the artisans are trained to become
self sufficient, resulting in newfound confidence and self-respect.
What You Can Do
You can support Marketplace of India by purchasing their products at Global
Exchange’s Fair Trade stores. You can see the full line of Marketplace products
and learn more about their programs and ways to get involved at
By Shel Mae Reinwald
Manager of San Francisco Global Exchange Fair Trade Store.
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