It Takes a Fair Trade Village

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swaziland1To borrow the book title of then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, It Takes a Village. Never more did this term make sense for me than when I started working with artisans in developing countries. For them, it really DOES take a village both on their end and our end!

Working with women has been an interest of mine since I was in high school and had an amazing (male) teacher who organized hunger walks and taught us about organizations like Amnesty International and the importance of getting involved in the world’s affairs, especially as it relates to women’s issues. Fast forward decades later, and I’m proud to be working with women artisans all over the world who share the same passion and energy as women in the U.S. do to make their lives and villages better and stronger.

My International Villages

In a recent scenario, I was in Pakistan trying to meet with a woman artisan who lives in a very secure area in Karachi and my security personnel could not gain security clearance to pass the heavily armed security guards because we weren’t on “a list”. Fair enough – almost an hour later we were able to connect with her and she, her husband AND child drove to the security gate to provide the security clearance we needed, I was shuffled quickly into her car and driven to her house. It takes a village.


One of my artisans in South Africa had her employee take my order of mohair scarves to the postal office to ship out. The artisan thought that our 5-digit zip code that I sent to her was a mistake since in South Africa it’s only four digits…so she dropped one digit. Luckily we had a tracking number so we could track the “lost” shipment until it arrived stateside…then I had to pray that the Chicago postal office would take the time to figure out the right postal code and ship it to us. A month later, it arrived. It takes a village.

swaziland2My Local Village

I cannot do my work without the support and help from my immediate family and friends. My husband is one of my biggest ambassadors and does all he can to support World Shoppe from helping with shipments to working trade shows with me. My mother is amazing, too. She’s another sounding board and helps with inventory, picking, shipping and serves as my visual merchandiser when we do shows. My daughter and son help me “unpack” our shipments by adorning himself with cuffs from South Africa…it takes a village.

At the end of the day, working with these amazingly talented women and fair trade supporters all over the U.S. is truly a blessing. I like to remind people that what we sell isn’t “stuff”. Next time you need to buy something whether it’s a gift for a friend or a dress, consider the origin and try to learn what you can about the product. Or, at the very least, find a local fair trade retailer and make that your first stop. Not only will you find high quality and affordable products for yourself and your friends, but you’ll feel better knowing that you’ve helped make a difference in the life of another through your purchasing power. And that’s the type of village I want to live in.

To learn more about our artisans and our work, stop by or visit a fair trade retailer near you to discover the importance fair trade has on the lives of artisans all over the world.

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