The Dharma Door was created 15 years ago to empower as many people as possible out of the cycle of poverty. A majority of our products are handcrafted by talented female artisans based in remote, rural communities of Bangladesh. Hailing from some of the poorest communities in the country, many of these women are now defying the odds thanks to the guaranteed income our ongoing orders provide.
Not only that – the women now carry out regular employment that fits harmoniously with their roles as mothers, and members of a rural, farm-based community. Umbrellaed with additonal support from The Dharma Door’s not-for-profit NGO organisations, the women are also privvy to education and support for them and their families. That’s something to celebrate!
Here’s a little more from Shannon Sheedy, founder of The Dharma Door, about what International Women’s Day means to us, and what we wish for women everywhere on this special day.
The Dharma Door exists to empower others out of the cycle of poverty. Given that most of the artisans who make the products are female, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the incredible contribution that women make every day in all areas of society, all over the world. This day is important to us at The Dharma Door because we’ve always had a special focus on empowering the female artisans who handcraft our products by trading fairly with them. We’ve always passionately believed that if women are empowered through being able to earn a fair wage, doing work that is safe and fulfilling, they will contribute to their families and communities in wonderful ways that benefit everyone.
Why is it important to support women in remote, rural communities of Bangladesh. Why is supporting women in these regions something we should all consider when making our purchasing decisions?
The women who make our products live in very poor, marginalised communities with the added challenge of being in a patriarchal society. Without the opportunity to benefit from their skills by making products for us and other international buyers, the majority of these women wouldn’t be earning a fair wage, and most likely wouldn’t have the chance to work at all. Each and every product they make genuinely creates positive change their lives.
How do the not-for-profit NGO groups that The Dharma Door works with support women?
The organisations that we partner with offer so much life-changing support to the women we work with, in addition to providing training and work for the artisans. Some of these organisations are very proactive in the community, especially if there is resistance from the men around their wives and sisters earning money.
These organisations run programs with couples about gender equality and domestic violence; teach the women how to manage their money and introduce artisan-managed savings and loans programs; teach nutrition and hygiene; bring medical clinics into the villages; and build clean and safe work spaces for the women who are unable to work from home. The spaces they build also double as schools for their young children.
The NGOs offer amazing support and are the crucial link between us and the artisans.
Gender equality continues to be a significant topic in our global community. How would improved conditions for women improve the lives of the women you work with? What role does The Dharma Door play in this?
Ninety-nine percent of our artisans are women – this is a conscious choice. We feel proud to be contributing to shifting societal norms in small rural communities in Bangladesh, where in some cases the artisan who make our products are the first generation of women to work for a wage. In many cases, they are now earning more than the men in their families.
In a largely patriarchal society, this earning capacity has transformed many difficulties, including marital relations; the strain that is caused if partners need to move away to find work; and the standing each women gains within small, rural communities. Regular work and income leads to greater pride, respect and autonomy.
How does The Dharma Door’s approach to working with women allow them to also be good mothers, and members of their rural community?
The women who make our products can choose to work from home or together in shared workspaces. They craft our products around the needs of their families, animals and crops if they have them. They are motivated to earn money so they can contribute their families and send their children to school, so they make time for making each day. The flexibility of their work means they are able to earn a fair wage and take care of their loved ones. It allows them to take care of what is most important to them in a healthy and sustainable way.
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