Today is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate the accomplishments of powerful gender of female. But also, it is a day to highlight the struggles that continue for women today. The theme of 2012 is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.”  We thing it is a perfect theme for Fair Trade to embrace, as Fair Trade is a viable and empowering alternative to conventional life for many women. In several countries around the world, Fair Trade is sometimes the only outlet woman have to find work to send their children to school and thus improving the lives of their families.

As a female owned and founded business, International Women’s Day is important to us. We thought in honor of the day, we would highlight some of our own Fair Trade woman warriors. One of our products that uses plenty of female Fair Trade power is our footwear. Ethletic sneakers, flip flops, and rain boots are all made from Fair Trade sourced rubber, tapped right out of a certified sustainable rubber forest. Many of the female workers here are Tamils, which have long been disenfranchised and oppressed by the ruling government. Many women in the region do not have many options available to them. But working at the Fair Trade Rubber Plantation is a viable option. The women who work there receive health care for themselves and their children, assistance with school, and they banded together to bring water and electricity to their villages. Society and the government does not give these women advancement or access to their needs, so they have empowered themselves and are working for Fair Trade ideals. Now that their children can go to school and electricity is running in their towns, the next generation will have even more opportunity then the last.

Another great female empowerment story is behind the Proxy Jewelry we carry. The jewelry is made by a women’s worker owned cooperative in Guatemala. The women live in a community outside Guatemala City and had very little opportunity to find work. That’s when they decided to take their lives into their own hands by starting a co-op. As owners, they have full control over their lives and work, in fact every member of their cooperative has an equal vote. Using their awesome jewlery making abilities and sewing skills together, they now run a cooperative where the children receive help with school, healthcare, and child care as well. They also now run a soy milk store and school through their cooperative. We are completely impressed with their story and find it inspiring. Since they could not find work through conventional means, they made work for themselves and have improved their own lives as well as their families and most important their children.

Both the female Fair Trade workers of Sri Lanka and Guatemala have met the theme of International Women’s Day by connecting each other and definitely inspiring the future. They have chosen to provide for their families and inspire their daughters to make an even better future for themselves. And every time you support the products they have made and other Fair Trade items like these, you are empowering them even further.

In celebration of all the awesome women behind our Fair Trade workers you can find the Ethletic Flip Flops on sale for only $5.50 (that’s a 75% savings) and all the Proxy Jewerly 10% off.  Both are great to add to your upcoming Spring wardrobe and even better you can tell their story every time someone compliments your style. So here is to all the female workers of the world: Happy International Women’s Day from the women workers at Autonomie Project. ❤

In 2003, Nasir Javed was 30 years old. He had a great job at Talon Fair Trade Factory, where Autonomie Project’s Ethletic products are produced. He was the co-coordinator for the Soccer department and was raising a family with his wife.  Because he was working for a Fair Trade factory, he knew his kids would be able to attend school in order to ensure professional jobs for their future.

One afternoon in April, everything changed. Nasir, his father, brother, and cousin were on their way home. Suddenly, their bus collided with a tractor.  Luckily there were no fatalities, but all of Nasir’s relatives sustained injuries ranging from a broken legs to shoulders. Nasir had been seated next to the bus driver and experienced the most damage.  Not only did both his legs break, but he sustained internal injuries and bleeding.

The company bus immediately transported Nasir to a hospital in Daska, as the community medical center was not equipped to cure his injuries. Since Nasir worked for the Fair Trade factory, Talon, all his medical expenses as well as his relatives who were in the crash were covered by the company. As a part of working for Talon, the workers and their families receive medical treatment free of charge at the shop clinic and more intense issues, such as Nasir’s are paid for at a lager hospital.

Nasir’s injuries were dangerous and luckily the company bus transported him to a better trained hospital, otherwise his internal injuries may have gone unnoticed. On top of paying for Nasir’s treatment, he received 100% of his wages for the time he was an invalid.  The wages were paid 50% by the Talon factory and 50% by the Worker’s Welfare Fund. The Welfare Fund is an account were extra profits from producing Fair Trade Footwear are placed. The workers at Talon then appoint a manager for the funds and vote what to do with them such as building the health clinic in the first place.  The funds are also used to help employees in a time of need, such as Nasir’s. 

After many surgeries and blood transfusions, blood donated by other workers in the factory, Nasir learned that he may never be able to walk. Talon and the extra Fair Trade funds paid for the best medical care in Pakistan. But after experiencing another accident, a fall, Nasir was told had to have his leg amputated. During this time, Nasir, unfortunately decided to retire from the Talon factory.

But in 2010, Nasir’s children Zara, 8 and Umar, 11 were in school. Nasir hoped a well educated life for them and wanted to return to work. He decided to go back to the Talon factory so his children could continue their education and have full health benefits. Nasir was welcomed back to Talon with open arms and was promoted to the Compliance Assistant Manager. Even better, his colleagues at the factory elected him the Manager of the Worker’s Welfare Fund. Now he helps others, the way he was helped.

An accident could have taken Nasir’s life and livelihood. But due to the Fair Trade funds, Nasir and his relatives who were injured  received the best possible care and months of being in the hospital didn’t cost Nasir a thing. His family still received his wages. Even though he chose to retire for awhile, especially after his second accident, Nasir then chose to go back to work. He was promoted and became the manager of extra Fair Trade funds that benefit all the workers directly! 

Now his daughter Zara is excelling in school and is planning on becoming a teacher and her brother, Umar has dreams of being a solider or kite flyer. They can live their dreams with their Father by their side, thanks to Fair Trade. 

 

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