Just as the summer is heating up, Autonomie is psyched to bring you our new Fair Trade Flip Flops!

Made from the same FSC-certified, all natural rubber as our sneaker soles, these Flip Flops are truly one of a kind: 100% eco-friendly, vegan, and support our Fair Trade community initiatives. Not to mention they’re super comfy and cute and come in a convenient, reusable organic cotton drawstring carrying bag. These sandals truly are the ultimate in ethical summer fashion!

In honor of our fun new flip flops, we thought we’d bring you another story about the people behind our products. Our original Stars of Fair Trade post from March told you about Chandrika, a young worker in Sri Lanka who taps the rubber that eventually gets made into our flip flops and sneaker soles.

Now we’re pleased to introduce you to her colleague, Vasanta Kumrari, another hard worker who is vital to bringing us (and you) all of our Fair Trade style.

When her husband died in an accident 17 years ago, Vasanta (age 46) was offered her deceased husband’s job. This is a tradition on the rubber estate where all of our FSC-certified rubber is tapped. Since then, Vasanta has been working for the rubber plantation, as well as bringing up her three children.

Meryn, her elder daughter (age 23) is married and lives with her husband, a lab technician in a hospital in Chennai. Vasanti visits them and her 2.5 year old granddaughter there once a year for about a week. The overnight journey by bus costs Rs. 450 for a one way trip (about $4.00 in US dollars).

Her son Manu Stephen has just finished final exams at a two year hotel management course. The course costs his mother a total of Rs. 30,000 in fees. The younger daughter Subi (17) is in the 11th grade at a government school where Vasanta is responsible for purchasing her books.

Vasanta lives with Manu and Subi in a small house in a village some five km away from New Ambadi, the rubber estate. The house consists of four rooms, a kitchen/bath, and a toilet outside. The house has electricity, even a television, but the communal water tap opposite her house is on for only 1.5 hours a day, so this water is only used for drinking. There is an open well next door, which serves all of the other needs of the family – and that of the next door neighbors.

Every morning, when it is still dark (because as soon as it gets warmer the freshly tapped latex dries up too quickly and the yield is lower), Vasanti takes a bus to work, which costs Rs. 7 for both ways.

A tapper typically does two tapping rounds per day, usually ending up with two buckets full of freshly tapped latex. Most tappers carry these by bicycle to the nearest collection station (some even have motorbikes now), but Vasanta prefers to carry the latex on her shoulders (as she’s pictured above): 45 kg of liquid – 18 kg of rubber. For this she earns Rs. 126 (a basic wage), plus 40 Rs of bonus. The second round is worth another Rs. 72.

With every purchase you make from us, an additional 25% of our cost goes directly to a worker’s welfare fund that provides these tappers with even more income. The fund also goes to providing Vasanta, her family, and her community with better access to health clinics, fully paid-for health insurance, and better access to water, such as the operation of the neighborhood well mentioned above.

For more information and to check out our line of products, visit us at www.autonomieproject.com.


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