Blog posts of '2014' 'January'

Unique Batik and Fair Trade: Opportunity, Not Charity

Last week, in our first post, we promised you a glimpse into how your purchases from Unique Batik benefit artisans. Although a lot of consumers have become more educated about fair trade, it’s a term with a lot of meaning behind it, so we thought it would be helpful to unpack a little of that meaning by taking a look at the principles of fair trade and what it means to be a fair trader.

The WFTO, or World Fair Trade Organization, outlines ten principles of fair trade in this document, called...10 Principles of Fair Trade. Hey, they’re all about fair trade, not about making up clever titles!

Principle #1 is “Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers.” If you’re a fair trade business, you’re working with producers who don’t have a lot of other opportunities; they are people who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. But it’s important to remember that “disadvantaged” doesn’t mean stupid, incompetent, or lazy. Many people in this world are born into challenging circumstances. They may not have an education or job opportunities, but given the chance, they can learn good business practices, work with dignity to support their families, and become self-sufficient. That’s what fair trade is all about.

At Unique Batik, we are working with people who have not had the opportunity for a good education. Most of our artisans are women who have been to less than five years of school; many have not been formally educated at all. Ways for women to earn an income at other work are scarce in these communities. They can clean houses, make tortillas, or sell gathered produce at the local market, making perhaps $2-3 a day. By producing the beautiful handicrafts that you love, women artisans are able to work in their homes and have the advantage of combining their household activities with their work. They earn $10 a day for about five hours of work. Sometimes, in order to supplement the household income, their husbands help them at night and on the weekends; they can earn over twice as much with this work as what they earn at their day labor jobs.

What’s the most important thing to the women when they have this extra income? How do they spend it? Educating their children. They want their kids to have the knowledge and the chances that they didn’t have. It’s pretty exciting to see how fair trade work can break the cycle of poverty for a family. There aren’t many other things that can make such a difference in one generation, which is one of the many reasons we believe in fair trade.

The other really important word in that principle? “Opportunities.” Fair trade is about opportunity, not charity. We’re telling you about the challenges our artisans face not so that you will feel sorry for them, but so that you can be impressed at how they have overcome their circumstances to take that little boost they have been given -- and fly. At Unique Batik, we’re not just buying things from producers; we’re working with artisans, many of whom have become our friends, so that they can be self-sufficient. We help build their businesses by communicating about quality control, sourcing better materials, and redesigning products that don’t sell. Our hope, and theirs, is not only to keep up steady purchases and income for our existing artisans, but to grow so that they can hire more artisans.

And, ultimately, change more lives.


Unique Batik: Behind the Brand

What do you get when you combine innovative design with inspirational programs in developing countries? Charmed objects and changed lives!

Here at Unique Batik, we think it’s time to let our fans know about the great work their purchases support, so follow our new blog to meet our artisans, get behind the scenes glimpses of our design process, and learn more about our fair trade business practices. There are so many stories to tell, and we can’t wait to share them with you! In the next month, you will hear from Carmela, one of the artisans behind our beaded jewelry , get an in depth look at our scholarship program in Guatemala, and have a sneak peek at upcoming bags for spring. And that’s just the beginning...

Have you ever liked a brand until you found out about their unethical business practices? Maybe you watched the collapse of the factory in Bangladesh last year, and wondered if any of the things you bought were made there. Think of this blog as an antidote to the daily discouragement brought on by hearing about child labor, sweatshops, and human trafficking. Instead of just talking about the problems, we can focus on the solutions. We think fair trade is an important solution that can alleviate all of those issues and bring lives of dignity and respect to people in developing countries. Every fair trade purchase you make, makes a difference.

Unique Batik is proud of the work we do and of the artisans with whom we work. Many of them face a lot of challenges in life, but they have overcome those challenges to create lives of quality for themselves and their families, and new possibilities for their children. Supporting education and opportunity for kids is a big part of who we are. Every one of our artisans’ children is enrolled in school. We also provide scholarships for other children, help support teachers in a remote village school, and offer nutritional programs for mothers and infants. There is nothing more uplifting than hearing from a child who is excited about getting to go to school, or having a mother say her work making jewelry means her children will get the education she never had.

Doing business in a moral and ethical way is something that happened organically for us. We simply believe that you should treat others in the same way you would want to be treated. Becoming part of the fair trade movement was a natural fit and has allowed us to expand our support for artisans and connect them to you, our customer. Every step of our process is about creating beautiful products, finding the fun and the funky, and doing it in a way that makes the world a better place.

We want to share these stories with you because they energize and inspire us, and we think the world needs more of that. More good news, more positivity, and more discovery. If that’s what you want, keep reading!