Socially Responsible Gifts
Philanthropic gifts have more takers nowadays. There are multiple benefits of such gifts as you get to buy something for your loved ones as well as benefit a cause you strongly believe or support. The good karma also rubs off on the receiver. So during the holiday season, why not buy gifts which will benefit someone struggling to make ends meet or a community which is working hard for its empowerment? How do we do this? By encouraging and indulging in the ‘fair trade’ movement.
We have seen support communities like Anand (Amul products) cooperative in Gujarat and Lijjat Papad Udyog, Maharashtra become household names. Society today also has few organizations that are a driving change through conscious business initiatives where philanthropy befriends commerce and includes artisans, farmers and conflict-torn women communities into the embrace of globalization.
Visit Navroze Mehta-Sonali Mehta’s www.mymela.com where the father-daughter duo showcases exquisite crafts from every region of India. Buy Pashmina work from the Panchachuli women weavers of Kumaon (a cooperative founded by Mukti Dutta), hand-painted wooden lacquerware from the Sawantwadi district or Ajrakh cotton scarves from North West India. There are gifts, e-cards, home furnishings that enthrall you with their colour and vibrancy.
Some online stores that give a fair-trade platform for artisan crafts such as the American company Global Goods Partners (www.globalgoodspartners.org) pool in funds to give entrepreneurial assistance to women from the red-light area. Destiny Reflection is one such program that trains and employs survivors of prostitution in Kolkata to provide sustainable livelihoods beyond the sex trade. While working here, women also get free training in English and computer skills as well as an education in finance and business.
SERRVis another store housing products like St. Mary's handicrafts where women from Ahmadabad use traditional skills, including beautiful mirror work embroidery, to create works of art. Profits from sales are distributed to the 450 artisan entrepreneurs who are able to save besides getting school scholarships for their children and technical courses to update their skills.
Market Place: Handwork of India started in 1986 to help three low-income women in Mumbai, India. At that time Pushpika Freitas and Lalita Monteiro founded the Indian nonprofit SHARE and began teaching the women to sew patchwork quilts by hand, work they could do at home without having to pay for childcare or equipment. Currently Market Place works with over 450 artisans organized into 14 cooperatives. Visit www.marketplaceindia.com to know more. The products on their site are numerous and include stoles, scarves, socks, key chains, accessories etc.
Empowered with self-confidence, these women have kept their children in school and out of early marriages, thus ensuring them a better future. They have also become social activists and improved conditions in their communities.
Closer home, Shop for Change is India’s first fair trade label that provides market access for farmers for cotton and other produce. Their products are sold mostly in bulk. For more information, you can visit www.shopforchange.com
Anita Dongre is one such celebrity fashion designer involved with Shop for change in her collection ‘Grassroot’ (using cotton textiles). Corporates like Aditya Birla Group, Axis Bank Mutual Fund, Hexaware, Ethiad Airways among others are buying fair trade food hampers to gift to their employees/customers. Luxury hotels like Four Seasons, Courtyard Marriott have also joined in.
Shopping from local artists wherever you live is always possible if the above online products do not suit your pocket. The essence has to be shopping that inspires us and enables others too, and then truly we will abide by the spirit of giving.