Fair Trade In Action - How Artisans Are Being Affected and Supported During this Time

Fair trade artisans - Bangladeshi woman weaves natural jute carpet.

The Dharma Door is a Fair Trade business that is focused on empowering as many women as possible out of the cycle of poverty. The global pandemic has touched us all in many ways, so this post shares an update on how ongoing shutdowns are affecting our artisans, partners and orders. We have also included some detail on how we have been able to support some of society's most disadvantaged people during this time.

You may have noticed on our website that many items are now on pre-order. Due to the pandemic, we have not been able to ship stock out of Bangladesh since March - primarily due to the nationwide lockdown from March to June. Since then, cluster areas have been placed under further restrictions, including parts of the capital city Dhaka where some of our NGO partners are based. Like many countries, the situation is fluid and a great deal of patience and adaptability is required.

We truly appreciate those who have chosen to pre-order our products, including our woven baskets, as this helps to provide momentum and hope for the artisans as they slowly work their way through the crisis. We’re happy to let you know that we now have stock on the way and if you have pre-ordered, your order will still be arriving around the date showing on the product pages on our website. The artisans are busy making more products and we expect to start seeing them flow to us very soon.

In the meantime, we encourage you to pre-order to avoid disappointment, as we are finding that products are increasingly pre-sold due to the initial delays. You will find the pre-order dates on each product page under the product description.

Fair trade artisans -  Bangladeshi woman weaves natural jute, close up on her hands as she weaves.

To give you a broader picture, Bangladesh is one the most densely populated countries in the world with almost 165 million people on a landmass smaller than the Australian state of Victoria which is home to 6.5 million people by comparison. This, along with a number of factors including low virus testing rates, one in five people living below the poverty line and high illiteracy levels makes the spread of the Covid-19 very difficult to manage. From now until September, Bangladesh will also experience its annual Monsoon season, adding a further set of challenges for the nation to navigate.

The major impacts of the lockdown were a complete and sudden shutdown of all transport and social distancing. The flow-on effects were significant for the artisans who live in close-knit rural villages. They were unable to work in communal production centres and many could not receive natural raw materials like jute and hemp to handcraft our products in their homes. For those artisans who were fortunate enough to have some raw materials to continue production for a short time, the lockdown meant they were unable to deliver products to our NGO field offices for quality checking and packing. Transporting items that were ready to the seaport to ship to us here in Australia posed further challenges.

Due to these impacts, many artisans were unable to continue earning money. As part of our commitment to Fair Trade and because we care deeply about the women and their welfare, we have made a series of donations to different artisan groups over the past couple of months. These donations have been put towards food and hygiene packages including equipment to protect from Covid-19. Additionally, we have continued to place orders with all artisan groups in an effort to ensure ongoing financial security and to support their mental health during this challenging time.

Fair trade artisans - Bangladeshi woman weaves natural jute wall hanging while sitting on floor.

It has been heartening to work closely with our artisan partners to provide this support and be a part of Fair Trade in action. Because we work with a number of groups located throughout the country, everyone's needs have been different. Our ability to respond well has relied on the strength of these relationships – built carefully over many years – which enables us to communicate closely and adapt our response as needed. We made the decision long ago to work with locally-run, not-for-profit NGOs to ensure that artisans would receive the most benefit from our arrangement and it has been affirming to see our approach work so well during this time. Every purchase from our collection makes a meaningful difference and we continue to celebrate the power everyone has to make a wise investment when decorating our homes.

Our focus continues to be on providing much-needed work to the talented women who hand craft our products - now and into the future. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your ongoing support and patience.

Fair trade artisans - Bangladeshi woman holds basket she made by hand out of natural jute


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