Celebrating International Women's Day 2024

Celebrating International Women's Day 2024

As we come together to acknowledge International Women's Day, we reflect on the profound impact of women in shaping societies worldwide. Here at The Dharma Door, this celebration holds special significance as we reaffirm our unwavering dedication to empowering our artisan partners through fair trade practices. The theme for this year, ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,’ resonated with us as we firmly believe that empowering women with support and opportunities leads to the flourishing of entire communities.

In Bangladesh, where the majority of our products are handcrafted by talented women artisans, we witness firsthand the challenges they face in a patriarchal-dominated society. Despite the obstacles they face, over the past twenty years we have observed how our artisan partners play a pivotal role as the glue that holds families and communities together. Their desire to work towards an improved standard of living and dedication to equitable prosperity ensures no one is left behind.

With each handcrafted piece in our collection, we strive to provide more than just beautiful products – we provide opportunities for women to thrive and prosper. Through their empowerment, we not only help to uplift individuals but also foster the advancement of families and entire communities. Read on to discover how we are continually working towards the empowerment of artisans through genuine Fair Trade partnerships, and how each and every product contributes to a brighter future for the women who craft them.

Training and Opportunities

Our non-profit NGO partners provide vital support to artisans who live in some of Bangladesh's most impoverished and marginalised communities. These communities, especially for women, have historically faced limitations in accessing education and opportunities to earn a living. While some possess traditional weaving or natural dyeing expertise passed down through generations, others are eager to acquire new skills for sustainable income generation.

Women who are keen to enhance or acquire new craft skills undergo training sessions conducted by our partners with the goal of providing them with long-term work. These sessions, spanning up to two years, focus on refining techniques and ensuring quality craftswomanship. Additionally, artisans receive training in essential life skills such as health, nutrition, and financial management.

Fair Prices through Collaboration

We are committed to ensuring that artisans receive fair wages or prices for their work through genuine fair trade practices. Our approach involves collaboration between our non-profit NGO partners, who provide raw materials to the artisans and work closely with artisan leaders to establish fair prices. These leaders play a pivotal role in assessing the intricacies of each design, including the time, skill, and techniques involved. They also have an opportunity to request higher prices when the cost of day-to-day living increases, making sure the artisans are earning enough to meet their family’s needs. 

By involving artisans in this decision-making process, we all ensure that their expertise and efforts are rightfully acknowledged and compensated. Through these practices, we uphold the principles of fair trade, fostering sustainable livelihoods and empowering communities. 

Flexible Work Arrangements

Our artisan partners benefit from flexible working conditions that accommodate their lifestyles and responsibilities. They have the choice to work from the comfort of their homes - often with other female relatives or neighbours - affording them the flexibility to care for their families while still engaging in meaningful work. Alternatively, they can utilise shared workshops strategically located in their villages. These workshops are purpose-built as conducive workspaces and equipped with storage for essential raw materials. This setup not only fosters a sense of community but also provides a safe environment where the women can work as a group and resources are on-hand. Whether at home or in these workshops, our artisans can pursue their craft with dedication, knowing they have the support and infrastructure to thrive.

Regular Orders for Stability

Placing regular orders with our artisan partners plays a pivotal role in empowering them by ensuring a steady and consistent income stream. This stability not only provides financial security but also serves as a motivational factor, encouraging these talented women to consistently produce high-quality goods. With a reliable income, they can plan for their future with confidence and provide for their families over the long term. 

Additionally, the financial stability provided by fair prices and consistent orders empowers women to have more influence over how their hard-earned income is spent within the family—an opportunity previously unimaginable in their patriarchal culture. They now have the agency to prioritise essential needs like medical expenses or home repairs, alongside investing in their children's education for a more promising future.

Savings, Loans & Retirement Funds

Each fair trade artisan group that we work with is established with its own unique approach, yet they all share a common goal of providing more than just a fair wage for the women involved. In some cases, artisans are given the opportunity to participate in a Savings & Loans program, granting them the chance to save or borrow for something special, important, or urgent in their lives. This holds significant importance, given that these women are ineligible to apply for a standard bank account. Others are given the opportunity to become shareholders of their organisations, entitling them to receive dividends from the group's profits. Moreover, many artisans now have the ability to save for their retirement, a previously unimaginable opportunity that ensures their financial security when they can no longer craft. These initiatives not only empower the women economically but also offer them a sense of stability and control over their future, fostering a sustainable and equitable environment within their communities.

Positive Flow-on Effects

Empowering women through fair trade initiatives has profound flow-on effects for the wider community of our artisan partners. It's widely recognised that when women are economically empowered, they become pivotal agents of change, making financial decisions that benefit not only their families but also entire communities. As artisans gain access to resources and opportunities, they prioritise essentials like education for their daughters, which has the positive impact of reducing rates of child marriages and increased literacy levels. With greater control over household finances, they also invest in better health and nutrition for their families, resulting in improved overall well-being. 

Being fairly compensated is much more than a financial transaction; it offers an opportunity for profound transformation in the lives of our artisan partners. Beyond the monetary aspect, a host of other positive benefits arise through their work: the profound sense of accomplishment that comes from crafting beauty with their own hands; the bond formed through shared learning and working alongside fellow artisans; greater respect within their families and communities; the inherent dignity of being able to provide for themselves and their loved ones; and the gateway to education for themselves and their children.

In the essence of true fair trade lies a deeper truth: when the women who craft our pieces are treated with fairness, provided with safe and supportive working conditions, and acknowledged for their contributions, they emerge as the vital threads that weave families and communities together. This empowerment sets off a chain reaction, as these strengthened women become beacons of strength and progress within their communities. It's a cycle of empowerment, where the resilience and determination of these women lay the groundwork for flourishing communities.

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