Empowerment and Fair Trade
I started selling jewelry in 2016 for a Direct Sales company. The reason I first signed up was to expand my influence and social circle beyond my family of 7 and close friends. The scariest part for me was talking to people. Any people. Chatting with a "stranger" was way outside my comfort zone and, frankly, I was NOT good at it. I had so many awkward conversations when I first started! I know that's a common problem, but it was something I really wanted to work on. It took about two years before I could say I was not uncomfortable most of the time. Now, another two years later, I can say that I actually look forward to the social aspect of my selling events. I love to chat with strangers, learn about them, discuss why they're buying gifts or treating themselves today, compliment their style, catch up with returning customers and more. My confidence in myself grew, as my confidence in my business grew. It is a uniquely empowering feeling to set goals, work hard to achieve them, and then see the difference you have made in yourself.
When my Direct Sales company unexpectedly closed and I was left wondering what my next step would be, my thoughts were on my newly-earned empowerment and how I could keep that momentum. I had recently read an article about the dark side of the fashion industry - poor working conditions, child labor, etc. I thought about how lucky I was to live in a place where empowering work was available. I knew about fair trade, but not in depth. My thoughts turned to women across the world who, like me, wanted to support their families. Who, like me, wanted to feel empowered by their work. Who, like me, loved their families first and would do whatever was necessary to protect and provide for their babies.
And that is how the idea of a fair trade jewelry shop was born in my head.
I feel so strongly that my own journey to empowerment can not be built on the backs on faceless workers around the world. Whether the jewelry comes from an artisan who has been honing their skills for years after learning from their mother, or a novice who has been rescued from a terrible situation and taught a new trade to help them lift themselves up to a new level, I want to know the story. I want to be a part of their empowerment journey. I want to give them a face and a voice. I want to know that my empowerment comes from their empowerment.
Empowerment for everyone!
Fair trade means there will be good working conditions. No child labor. A safe physical place as well as an environment of teaching and learning and growth. My favorite fair trade suppliers are the organizations that are on-site with the workers giving them benefits that are rare in that area. For example, in Haiti families often have to give up their children to orphanages because they can not afford that child - so in Haiti a way to earn money is literally keeping that family together. Or, in India the organization I source from pays their workers 35% higher than the industry standard and offers full health coverage which even extends to their families and the community.
When I read these stories I can see the empowerment on these workers faces. (In my head they are always women, because thats who I relate to the most, but in reality they are not all women.) It puts a smile on my own face to think of their empowered lives.
**Photo credit to Gift of Hope Haiti - my favorite Haitian jewelry source**