Today we are continuing our celebration of Fair Trade Month and the producers who create the lovely products sold by Autonomie with a tale of small community action.  Literally two days ago we launched a whole new product line: Fair Trade belts and jewelry produced by our Fair Trade partners: Proxy Apparel. On top of being Fair Trade, the accessories are all environmentally friendly. They use up-cycled materials such as soda can tabs, wrappers, and bar codes that would normally end up in landfills.  Not only are we excited to be carrying such beautiful pieces, but we are super inspired by the story behind the women who make the jewelry.

Unlike many of our other products, which are made with larger scale Fair Trade manufacturing, these Fair Trade accessories are made in a small women’s cooperative in Guatemala. The cooperative was founded by a small group of women who wanted to empower themselves in 1988. Living in community outside Guatemala City, many of these women were marginalized by their society, where men make up the majority of the workplace, and by decades of Civil War that finally ended in 1996. Because of these issues, many women found it hard to find work to support their families. So the founders of UPAVIN Cooperative decided to bring their sewing and jewelry making skills together to form a cooperative, where every member is an owner and every member has an equal vote.

The women in this co-op grew to become the 80 members they are today, spanning several small communities around Guatemala City.  Most of the women in the co-op have become the sole providers for their family and are making it possible for their children to go to school in order to better their lives and those of the community.  Because the cooperative members have equal say and pay, they are able to take care of their families and provide health care and child care for each members entire family.

Since the early days in 1988, UPAVIN has expanded their cooperative beyond jewelry and seamstress work. In addition to the jewelry their cooperative now provides the community with a craft business, local bakery, and a soy milk store. They also now run a small school and child care facility. 

UPAVIN is a clear example of how people can empower themselves as workers. They can band together as one unit and make Fair Trade a reality. By joining their skills they have created a democratic and safe place for their fellow members to work, opportunity for themselves and families, and strengthened their communities. This is true direct action of workers who want a better life for themselves and future generations. 

Although these cooperatives follow Fair Trade principles, they differ from many Fair Trade certified farms and factories around the world. Typically those farms and factories are still in the model of typical business, with owners or boards and many different pay scales. Many are unionized to include democratic practices and all adhere by Fair Trade standards of fair wages, safe work environments, fair hours, and benefits including health care, life insurance, and pensions. Cooperatives are on a much more grass-roots level but still follow the same principles. All members of cooperatives like UPAVIN receive fair wages and technically own the company!

So when you make the decision to support small community run cooperatives like UPAVIN, you are directly benefiting the craftswomen or men who made your product. The money goes directly to the producers and they decide what to do with it. What they’ve decided is to provide health care, child care, and education for their families and within their communities and beyond.

—————————————————–

GIVEAWAY: In honor of October being Fair Trade Month, we are giving away a pair of our Fair Trade belts or jewelry! Head over to our Facebook to win a pair of the Proxy accessories our UPAVIN cooperative members produced! Our last Facebook status is a link to our blog. Enter our giveaway by sharing our blog post. Just hit “share” underneath our blog’s link on Facebook! Also, for the next week all UPAVIN made jewelry is on sale on our website!

October is here and Fair Trade Month is officially in high gear! The idea behind Fair Trade Month is to both celebrate and raise awareness for Fair Trade. In the United States, there are literally thousands of educational events, parties, promotions, and sales going on the entire month. So how do you get involved? What is the best way an ethical shopper to enjoy the month? We have put  together a short list of the best ways to celebrate Fair Trade Month!

1) Promote Fair Trade: In our 21st Century world, one of the easiest ways to bring awareness to a topic is to use social media. During the whole month, use your Twitter, Facebook, and other sites to spread the word! There are tons of great resources to share such as Fair Trade Resource Network and Fair Trade USA,  or even mention or post pictures of some of your favorite Fair Trade products! Be sure to use hashtags such as #FairTradeMonth and #FairTrade.

2) Give Fair Trade: Maybe you have some birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or baby showers coming up or maybe you want to get a head start on holiday shopping. Either way, when you are purchasing a gift this month, make sure it is Fair Trade. This is a perfect opportunity to give your loved ones quality gifts and educate them on what Fair Trade means. We recommend including information with your gift. Some places to find Fair Trade goods are Global Exchange, World of Good, Ten Thousand Villages, and of course Autonomie! Speaking of Autonomie, we are featuring different producers all month long and have special week long sales, as well as giveaways. Check our Facebook on how to enter.

3) Get Involved: If you want to really bring awareness to Fair Trade, get involved in your community or school. Did you know cities and universities can become Fair Trade Towns and Universities?! Check out Fair Trade USA’s programs Fair Trade Towns and Fair Trade University for more details. If you community doesn’t have an initiative already going, start one yourself. Another great way to bring Fair Trade to your community is to talk with business owners about carrying Fair Trade items. Talk with your local grocery stores, natural food stores, cafes, restaurants, and retail stores about the growing need for ethical items.

4) Party, Party, Party: Since it is October and Halloween ends the month, why not party, Fair Trade style. Plan out a Fair Trade themed costume, hand out Fair Trade chocolate, and serve Fair Trade treats and alcohol. Luckily, there is wonderful Fair Trade vodka and wine these days! Send out Fair Trade Month with a bang and truly celebrate all that is Fair Trade. Your guests will be impressed with an educational and ethical Halloween!

For more great ideas on how to celebrate Fair Trade Month, check out Fair Trade USA’s Top Ten! Happy Fair Trade Month!

Madhara Dulanjali is 10 years old and lives on the Frocester Rubber Estate in Horana, which is located in the western province of Sri Lanka. Her great-grandparents worked as rubber tappers at this estate, and her father and mother – Vijararatnam and Kumari – both started working as tappers in 1995.

Madhara and her family are part of the so-called “plantation Tamils,” which is a term for those whose ancestors had been brought to work in Sri Lanka by the British colonial administration more than 100 years ago. For almost a century this meant no citizenship or the right to vote. After some tumultuous times most of the Tamils were granted citizenship at the end of the Twentieth Century. However, socially and economically, they continue to be ignored in their country.

In their little town of Horana, Madhara’s family had been trying to get the State to provide electricity. However, considering their political status, it was unlikely to happen. Furthermore, the cost of the electricity extension is so high, it would never have been supported from public funds. 52 families live in the same town as Madhara and her family, all have been living without electricity.

However, this March, these 52 families no longer had to worry about their kids doing homework in the dark. This plantation works under Fair Deal Trading, a Fair Trade company that produces Autonomie Project’s Ethletic flip flops, rubber boots, and rubber sneakers.

As workers of Fair Trade, they not only receive higher premium wages, but  additional profits from the rubber sales are placed in a Fair Trade Premium account that the workers themselves control and vote on how to use the funds. The 52 families knew exactly what to do with the $33,197 in Fair Trade premiums they earned from all the rubber they produced last year: electricity!

Fair Deal Trading paid the Fair Trade premiums, and today Madhara, her family, and 52 other families have electricity in their homes!!

As Madhara’s family fought to bring electricity to their town, her parents enrolled her into a school that teaches in Sinhala, the language spoken by the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, in order to have a better chance for the future beyond rubber tapping.

Now with electricity, the children’s school uniforms can be ironed instead of the usual way, which was folding them under their pillow overnight to “press” it. Two other things they welcomed warmly into their towns: refrigerators and television!

Most importantly, Madhara and her classmates are now able to do their homework after dark without ruining their eyes. This allows them to do even better at school, and making it unlikely that she, or her brother and sister, will become the 4th generation of rubber tappers.

—————————————————–

GIVEAWAY: Head over to our Facebook to win a pair of the flip flops our Horana rubber tappers produced! Our last Facebook status is a link to our blog. Enter our giveaway by sharing our blog post. Just hit “share” underneath our blog’s link on Facebook! Also, be sure to check the website for a special discount on Fair Trade Flip Flops.

Yasir Saddiqe can’t stand or walk. He hasn’t been able to since contracting polio at the age of three, but despite his disability, he worked as a tailor’s apprentice for 18 months after graduating. His customers appreciated his work, as the garments were always high quality and completed quickly. His family and customers all agreed, Yasir has great talent for tailoring.

Now at age 21, Yasir decided it’s time he open his own tailor shop. During his apprenticeship, he earned Rs. (Pakistani Rupee) 50-60, which is about $0.58 to $0.70, per Shalwar Kameez, a loose local trouser-shirt combination. If he opened his own shop, he figured he would stitch 3 or 4 suits a day and sell for Rs. 250 each. After the cost of electricity, rent, and fabric, his earnings would be around Rs. 125 ($1.45), which would be double his previous income.

To get him started, Yasir’s family purchased a used sewing machine for Rs. 13000 ($151.35). However, Yasir needed more funding to actually open the shop. His 60-year old father, Mohammad Saddiqe, earned only the minimum monthly wage of Rs. 6000 as a contract sneaker worker, and has not only Yasir to support, but three other sons and four daughters as well.

Normally situations like Yasir’s would end up hopeless because although there is a minimum wage set by the government in Pakistan, workers are often paid less and therefore struggle to provide for their families. However, Mohammad works for Talon Sports, a leading manufacturer of sports goods in Sialkot, Pakistan. Talon is also the manufacturer of Autonomie Project’s sneaker line, Ethletic. Certified by Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) in 2002, the fair trade premium of Talon products are invested in projects that support the empowerment and social development of workers.

The Saddiqe family requested a loan from Talon, and in June the loan committee paid for a second hand hem-making machine and loaned Yasir Rs. 25000 to open his tailor shop! Yasir was now practically set to open his shop.  However, just as the loan was approved, a doctor from a local hospital called Yasir to Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, some 2.5 hours away by car. His left knee needed to be re-set. The Lahore hospital charged him Rs. 30000.

Because Talon provides health coverage for its workers and their family, Yasir’s charges were taken care of by the Talon Fair Trade Welfare Society. His follow up costs, which total around Rs. 20000, would also be covered.

Yasir returned home after ten days with half his left leg in a cast. He currently passes time by watching TV on an old computer since he has to stay in bed for at least two months. After that, he can finally open his shop for business. The loan committee has postponed repayment of course, until he is well enough to start his shop.

Considering the fate he has to wrestle with, it is an enormous relief that Talon and Autonomie Project could help make his life a little easier.

-Michelle Thai

Yes, it is official! We can finally say it!! BOSTON IS AN OFFICIAL FAIR TRADE CITY! The Autonomie Project team has been committee members and incredibly active in the Fair Trade Boston organization since its inception a few years ago. You may all remember our excitement and volunteer work surrounding the Kick Off Event last year and the signing of the Fair Trade Resolution back in May, but now we have completed the ultimate goal of declaring the city of Boston a Fair Trade City. Not only are we the first major city in New England to declare, but also the first major city on the East Coast! This is an exciting, innovative, and historical announcement for our fair* city. *Pun fully intended.

Now you may be wondering what exactly is a Fair Trade city?  Transfair has a wonderful campaign entitled Fair Trade Towns, encouraging towns and cities to officially declare themselves Fair Trade friendly. To do so, towns must meet 5 basic criteria: local council must pass a resolution supporting fair trade and committing to serve fair trade products, a range and specific amount of fair trade products must be sold within the town (pubs, cafes, clothing stores etc), a percentage of  workplaces and community organizations (churches, hospitals, universities etc) must serve fair trade products, an active coalition must meet regularly, and garnish media coverage.  Boston is proud to say, me have met and surpassed all 5 requirements!

To celebrate our historical declaration, Fair Trade Boston, along with Autonomie Project, Ben & Jerry’s, Equal Exchange, and many others are hosting a Fair Trade Block Party on September 10th at the Prudential Center Plaza! Live music, fair trade giveaways, and free sampling are just a taste of what our celebration will offer. So please come to our free celebration and party for your city! Boston, it is a time to celebrate and be merry.

We are ecstatic to announce and it almost seems surreal, but we are proud of our little city and hope it springs inspiration around the country.  Find out if your community already has a Fair Trade Towns campaign or start one on your own! Congratulations, Boston!!!

-Team AP

It is rare that a day unites activists, environmentalists, consumers, farmers, and workers all over the globe. However, a day such as this will commence this Saturday, May 8th. World Fair Trade Day is celebrated every year on the second Saturday in May and always carries a theme. This year’s theme is titled A BIG DAY FOR THE PLANET, in hopes of melding the ideas of Fair Trade with sustainability. The founders hope this day will draw attention to Fair Trade and hopefully people will begin to ask questions about who makes their products, where they are made, and how they are made.  Fair Trade is a viable ethical alternative to conventional products that might not pass the ethics test of the previous questions.

World Fair Trade Day events are occurring all over the world and we are really excited about this year! This year we have conquered a milestone in Boston. Our Fair Trade Boston coalition, of which Autonomie Project serves on the committee, is very close to declaring Boston an official Fair Trade City! Yesterday, May 5th, Boston City Council passed an official Fair Trade Resolution!!! This is groundbreaking and historical for our little city on a hill and we are not only excited and inspired, but proud to be directly involved in the efforts. However, we still have a little more work to do, as we need only 40 more institutions providing Fair Trade products to meet the Fair Trade Towns criteria. We are on a race to beat New York, and hope to accomplish it! If you your church, organization, school, or hospital has Fair Trade products, please contact us directly or Fair Trade Boston!

On top of this wonderful achievement with the Boston City Council, here in Boston we have a pretty exciting event planned. Fair Trade Boston is hosting a Fair Trade Crawl! Businesses all over Boston are holding separate events including some with live music, henna tattoos, Fair Trade giveaways, and scavenger hunts. There is a Fair Trade Crawl card highlighting all the participating businesses and each business you visit, you get a punch on your card. If you get four or more punches you receive a gift of discounts and are automatically entered into a raffle where you have the chance to win amazing prizes donated by Equal Exchange, Ben & Jerry’s, and of course AP!

To no one’s surprise Autonomie Project is participating in the crawl. We have partnered with Ben & Jerry’s on 174 Newbury Street. There will be live music, Fair Trade ice cream samples, and if you buy a pair of our NEW Fair Trade Flip Flops you will receive a free Fair Trade ice cream cone! We are really excited, so if you are in the Boston area, please stop by from 10-3.

So what if you are not in Boston? Don’t worry there are plenty of local events happening all over the country and world. You can find an event in your neck of the woods on the World Fair Trade Day site. Whether you are in Boston or not, we hope that you are able to participate in the 2010 World Fair Trade Day! It is important to bring awareness to the standards and ideas of Fair Trade as well show the world the demand for such products! As consumers we have the power to make sure our choices are better for the people and for the world. Together, we can do it!

You remember that childhood rhyme: “I scream, you scream, we all scream for Fair Trade ice cream! ” Ok so maybe the childhood rhyme didn’t include Fair Trade, but it does now! This week was a triumphant one for the Fair Trade world, as ever popular ice cream giant, Ben & Jerry’s announced all their ice cream will be fully Fair Trade certified by 2013! That means all ingredients used in over a hundred delectable flavors will be Fair Trade certified!!! The Fair Trade world is buzzing about this recent development as well as mainstream media outlets including the BBC.  In fact, Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield were interviewed on the BBC about these changes (click to watch the video).

It may come to no surprise that a hippie-esque, responsible company from Vermont would make such a commitment, however it has been a long time coming. In 2005, Ben & Jerry’s became the first ice cream company to source some of their ingredients through Fair Trade means and currently provide Fair Trade flavors such as Chocolate, Vanilla and Coffee Heath Bar Crunch.  Ben & Jerry state themselves that if it weren’t for their corporate partners, Unilever, the transition to Fair Trade would have happened long ago. It looks like they have finally convinced the higher-ups going Fair Trade is the natural evolution for a company like Ben & Jerry’s. It is encouraging to see major companies like this hop on board and we certainly hope it becomes a trend.

Such a commitment by a company as large as Ben & Jerry’s will make a huge impact. Not only will it bring Fair Trade directly into the American mainstream marketplace (bringing awareness right to our doorsteps), but it will also provide a partnership with several Fair Trade cooperatives, totaling close to 27,000 farmers! Wow! This is really going to affect several people in this world and the achievement should be celebrated. FLO’s Chief Executive, Rob Cameron put it best when he stated, ” Tackling poverty and sustainable agriculture through trade may not be easy but it is always worth it, and Ben & Jerry’s has demonstrated real leadership in laying out this long-term ambition to engage with smallholders, who grow nuts, bananas, vanilla, cocoa and other Fair Trade-certified ingredients.”

We, at Autonomie Project, also want to extend our Thanks and Congratulations to the Ben & Jerry’s team for their Fair Trade pledge!  We have had the pleasure of working with some of their staff on the Fair Trade Boston committee. Here in Boston, we have a deep dedication to Fair Trade and are currently working together on a Fair Trade Towns Initiative to help Boston become a Fair Trade City! We are getting closer and closer to making our wonderful city a Fair Trade certified city and we are glad we have Ben & Jerry’s walking with us. Now if they would just make a vegan flavor or two, we could celebrate this Fair Trade by none other than eating some ice cream!

banner.234x60The team at Autonomie Project is extremely proud and honored to have been nominated for the Shine a Light grant program for small business. Shine a Light is a joint initiative by American Express and NBC Universal that showcases and supports small businesses that local communities find inspiring. The winning stories have a shot at a $100,000 prize to help them grow!

It goes without saying that it would be fabulous, thrilling and extremely helpful in these lean economic times to be a top story! We need 50 endorsements of our nomination by THIS SUNDAY September 13th in order to pass to the judging level. We hope you’ll take a few moments to register with Shine a Light and endorse our business.

We, as always, cherish your support of our mission and our business. We will appreciate not only your own endorsement, but if you would take the time to pass this email to friends and family who may also share your commitment to ethical consumerism.

From all of us,
The AP Team <3!

Looks like we are headed back down to New York this Saturday, May 9th, to celebrate World Fair Trade Day. We will celebrate this incredibly important holiday by participating in the Fair Trade Vendor Fair, which includes AP, of course, but also Global Good Partners, Sustainable Threads, Interrupcion*, and a whole host of others! Along with the vendor fair there will be FREE Fair Trade giveaways including coffee and chocolate. Fair Trade video games, and Fair Trade info booth. Throughout the day there will be film screenings including “Bean to Bar,” a film about Divine Chocolate and the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative and“Awaken Your Conscience,” a film about the Equal Exchange cooperative as well as Fair Trade speakers and presenters.

So if you are in the Big Apple this weekend, please take the time to come talk with fellow fair traders, learn about Fair Trade, eat some delicious chocolate and of course say hi to us! We hope to see you there celebrating and spreading awareness!

WHEN: Saturday, May 9, 2009
11 am – 5 pm

WHERE: The Action Center to End World Hunger
6 River Terrace, Battery Park City, NYC

Design Hive (11/15) Photo by ZestyBetsyThis Sunday come join us at Design Hive right here in Cambridge, Mass (Harvard Square). Design Hive is an innovative collective marketplace held every month to showcase local artists and designers. Each even centers around a theme. This month Design Hive takes place on Sunday, April 5th and the theme is in celebration of Earth Day, entitled Get Green & Groovy! Oh and the best part: its FREE admission!

The event will feature up to 60 local designers, vintage clothing, handbags, jewelry, and of course yours truly Autonomie Project! We will be there with great sneakers and tees AND an art table, artists included to help you custom design and paint your own AP products!! Also, Boston Rebel Sound will be spinning records all day and a recycled clothing fashion show put on by Fashion with Impact.

We are really excited about this event and would love to see you there! So come support your local artists, celebrate an early Earth Day and maybe get a pair of custom painted sneakers! We hope to see you there.

When: Sunday April 5th

10am – 5pm with Fashion Show at 1pm

Where: Harvard Square: Maria Baldwin School (formerly the Agassiz School)

28 Sacramento St. (off Mass Ave. @ corner of Oxford St.)

Cambridge, MA 02138

  • Twitter: @autonomie

    Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

  • Facebook

  • Topics

  • Recent Posts

  • April 2014
    M T W T F S S
    « Oct    
     123456
    78910111213
    14151617181920
    21222324252627
    282930  
  • Archives

  • Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 45 other followers