We love partnering with fair trade organizations and artisan groups for our candle vessels to give back twice... first to the artisan groups, then to refugee communities. So we are especially excited to announce our new collaboration with Tara Projects to empower women. Based out of India, Tara Projects is dedicated to supporting artisans through fair trade, dignified work and community programs as a means to alleviate poverty.
Just a few years ago, our very first collaboration with Tara Projects brought us the beautiful brass Narela Box, handmade from start to finish. This same stunning metalwork and detailed artisan technique is what created our new Serenity Candle that supports women artisans escaping poverty with holistic and education programs across Delhi.
Tara Project's vision of a future where women have equal rights, dignity and the opportunity to thrive inspires us and truly resonates. We are grateful for their incredible programs impacting the lives of over 5,000 artisans and their families, and are thrilled to partner again for our Serenity Candle. Here, we've interviewed the fair trade organization to learn more about their inspiring work to empower women!
1. We are honored to be collaborating with you to support artisans’ families and communities. When and why was Tara Projects started?
The journey of Tara started in 1970’s from Delhi and in its suburbs, with a few social workers including Prof. Sharma (he was also my Father) and some missionary sisters. They were deeply affected by the poverty and social injustice all around. They felt somewhere responsible and decided to do something about it, in their own small ways in slums and in the settlements around.
They began their actions by working against the evil practices like caste system and child labor. Making people aware about their rights, equality and dignity of life. At that time, their social actions were dependent on support from friends. In order to become self sustainable, the idea to initiate income generating activities originated based on Fair Trade values.
So, they started some income generating actions like providing micro credit support - to start small projects of cows, goats and chicken rearing. These actions were followed by garments stitching and tailoring trainings and then expanding to other craft lines like jewelry and home décor.
Today, Tara is a socially responsible Fair Trade organization, supporting more than 5,000 people through its Fair Trade and community development actions like livelihood generation program, health care, education (informal education), skills development, micro credit, gender equality, women safety and environment protection.
2. Who are the artisans you work with? Where are they based?
We are working in the Northern part of India like Delhi and its suburbs, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Most of the artisans we work with belong to the grassroots level. They are often downtrodden and belong to socially and economically lower strata of society. There are both women and men artisans/producers.
Many of them are internal migrants. They migrated from their villages to the cities, in search of livelihood. They had to face many hardships and exclusion. Through Fair Trade we could help some of them to come out of their difficult situation. They make jewelry, soap-stone crafts, Zari embroidered ornaments, wooden and metal crafts. Some learned with their experiences and other learned from their families.
3. How does Tara Projects support positive change in artisans’ communities?
We are blessed to be the part of Fair Trade movement. Fair Trade is more than only about buying and selling. It is about inclusive and sustainable development. Fair Trade is a holistic approach.
Being a part of Fair Trade, Tara supports not only the artisans but also their families and others in the community. Tara supports the artisans and empowers them through design development, production and marketing. We also supports them through our community development actions like health care, ethical finance, non formal education for the marginalized children, working against child labor, gender equality and capacity building.
4. Can you tell us about the name Tara Projects and what it stands for?
TARA stands for Trade Alternative Reform Action Projects. In Tibetan mythology Tara is also the name of the Goddess of Art. In Irish Tara means Star.
5. What moment led you to join Tara Projects?
From the very beginning, as a student, I was involved in social work. I was sensitive to see the discrimination in society like caste system and gender inequality.
Whenever I was going to the villages, I could see how people were unfairly treated and exploited. In spite of being equal as per our constitution the discrimination still continue in our society. I was often teaching the marginalized children from these communities, as I believed that the education is the only way to become aware about your situation and to bring the change.
After completing my studies, I worked for a short time in the government sector, where I experienced discrimination at the workplace, against women. It is a fight for many women in our society, where in spite of their abilities they are not treated equally. They continue to be treated as an object.
In conventional trade, the situation was the same. I felt that something was wrong with our system. Later on, I become aware about Fair Trade movement. It was the beginning.
The concept of Fair Trade was very inspiring. I felt that it was the hope and a good alternative to make a better world. Therefore, I got involved and started to help as a volunteer in Tara. It helped me to strengthen my beliefs for humanity and justice. It was very hardworking years, but was truly meaningful times. I learnt a lot from my experience with the grassroots.
6. Do you have any philosophies or quotes you work by?
We believe that poverty is not only about shortage of money. It is about rights and relationships; about how people are treated and how they regard themselves; about powerlessness, exclusion and loss of dignity. Yet the lack of an adequate fair income is at its heart.
Tara’s mission is to practice fairness in its production and trading activities for the development of the grassroots and the other marginalized sections of society, using capacity building towards continuously improving its performance while ensuring social equity and environmental sustainability.
7. Who are the artisans who made these beautiful brass vessels we are pouring our Serenity Candle in?
These Serenity Candle vessels are being produced in Moradabad, a state of Uttar Pradesh. The city is also very famous for brass and metal related items. The vessels are being made by a group of 8 artisans, whom we have organized into small self help group.
The name of the artisan group is Century Brass India. They are not factory level set up, however are working in small workshop which we have supported to build in last few years. The artisans have got all the basic tools, equipment and machinery to make many products. Specifically these vessels are being made with the help of hand operated drum molding, lathe turning, by converting the plain brass flat sheets. So the piece is totally handmade.
8. Why do you focus on women?
In spite of laws, women are still the victim of inequality in our society. For example, by law, men and women should be paid equally but in many cases it is not the reality. The women often have no choice than to accept low wages. Also their contribution is not acknowledged.
We are aware that they are not able to raise their voice against the wrong due to their weak social and economic situation. On the other hand, Fair trade fights for the rights of the women and gender equality. We strongly believe in gender equality. It is also one of the Fair Trade principles as well as one of the goals for SDGs.
Unfortunately we are witnessing increasing crimes against the women in our society. It must change. At Tara we are running self defense training programs for the young women. It is heartening to see the growing confidence among these young women.
We believe that it is a human issue. One woman empowered can change the future of a family. That is why it is important and empowers women. It is important that women have their dignity and self respect and that is possible through Fair Trade.
To create more work for the women, we also support them through micro credit. There are many positive examples where the women have made their lives better, have got confidence and recognition in their families. They are able to send their children to schools and help the family. Education is the key for better future for all, especially for the girl child.
9. How do you define livelihood? What does this mean for the communities you work in?
Livelihood is making your living based on fairness and dignity. It needs to be sustainable and impact the lives of artisans - producers positively. All, especially the marginalized artisans, should be able to take care of themselves and their families in a dignified way by earning fair wages. It is about human dignity and covering the basic needs with social equity and sustainability. We try to achieve these standards, working in our communities. It is a long process. Thank you for being our partner in this journey.
10. What is your greatest inspiration?
There are many people around us. They can be inspiring in small ways to continue our work. For example my late parents are the great inspiration for me. I have seen them working hard, supporting others unconditionally, fighting for socio-economic justice, humanity and Fair Trade. I have learnt from them that world is a family and we all are equal. Fair Trade is hope for sustainable development and peace. We have to continue to work in this direction.
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