Thanks to the influence of social media and instant access to news from around the world, today’s consumer is more aware of the economic hardships faced by societies in developing nations. Realizing that many families lack the opportunities to break the cycle of poverty often brought on by war, famine, and political and socioeconomic factors, conscious consumers are beginning to understand the multifaceted role they can play. They ask themselves how they can make a difference. Similarly, corporations are beginning to embrace and integrate Fair Trade practices and products as part of a socially-conscious, global business strategy.
Fair Trade is described as a social movement representing alternatives to conventional trade models. It operates within a framework of international development, social justice, environmental sustainability and equitable economic returns. For instance, in societies where gender inequality is a cultural norm, Fair Trade provides an economic avenue that enables artisans to connect to a global market where their products can be marketed and sold. This gives them the power to make their own decisions and provides a path to a more sustainable future for themselves, their family and community.
One such group of artisans, known as Batsiranai Craft Project, is an example of how a social entrepreneurial effort can become a model for women’s empowerment. They are based in Zimbabwe, where one out of every five adults is HIV positive, there are only two doctors for every 500,000 – 600,000 people, the unemployment rate is at 95%, and the inflation rate is 231 million percent. This wonderful project supports mothers with severely disabled children living under challenging circumstances and social stigma. Founded by Lynn Poole and developed by the hard work of 140 women, Batsiranai income generation project allows women to work near their homes to support the needs of their families, and at the same time be available to care for their disabled children.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”
Today’s socially minded corporations and consumers alike understand that by buying corporate products with purpose and gifting with impact, they can bring these words to life and be a force for good. This offers artisans like the Batsiranai Craft Project the opportunity to sustain a livelihood and build a future of possibility for their families and their culture.