URBAN BAZAAR's philosophy is pretty simple
The handcrafted arts should be practiced, preserved, and encouraged to flourish in all cultures. The people who practice handcrafted art forms should be respected and paid fairly for their work.
Sound good? We think so.
Why this is an Important Issue
Sadly, many traditional, handcrafted art forms around the world are being lost- and often the people who could continue to practice them are being forced to give up these traditions. This is due to many factors, one of the largest being globalization and the industrialization of developing countries.
As we in the first world demand more and more cheap consumer goods, more factories are built to produce those goods, and more people are needed to work in those factories. Due to a lack of opportunities at home, many people have to leave their small, traditional communities to move to large cities or factory towns in search of this kind of work. A plethora of problems stems from this migration of people to cities for factory work:
- Often, these workers are not fairly compensated for their labor, and are unable to support themselves and their families.
- Workers often face dangerous working conditions, long hours, and few or no days off to rest.
- Families are broken apart by the distance from village to city, and have no opportunities to travel to see each other.
- When work is scarce or wages are low, women are all-too-often coerced or forced into the sex trade, and become victims of human traffickers.
- Because entire generations of youth leave their communities to find work, there is no one left to learn traditional art forms that have been passed down for hundreds or thousands of years. With no one to learn these art forms, they are lost forever to future generations.
How Fair Trade Can Help
Fair Trade is one way to help to solve some of these problems. In the Fair Trade system:
- Workers are guaranteed fair wages and safe working conditions.
- Often, Fair Trade artisans form cooperatives and have autonomous control over their prices and working conditions, so they are not exploited by a boss or large company.
- Workers have educational opportunities to advance their artistic and business skills, as well as receiving technical support from their first world trading partners, so that they are more empowered to operate and sustain their own businesses.
- By earning a fair wage for their handcrafted products, artisans can stay in their communities.
- This not only keeps families together, but also promotes the passing-down of traditional art forms from generation to generation.
- It also creates opportunities for artisans to give back to their communities in myriad ways, such as micro-loans to other emerging businesses.
- Disadvantaged members of society, such as women or the disabled, are able to earn a living wage and are therefore far less likely to be exploited by human traffickers.
How Local Artists Fit into the Picture
URBAN BAZAAR(tm) features a great selection of Fair Trade merchandise- but we also "trade fairly" with another group of artisans: those from our community. How does this tie into our philosophy?
Well, we feel it's important to keep handcrafted art forms alive here in the U.S. as well as in developing countries. We are a society that is so used to buying all of our goods from shelves and racks, we often forget that there is a face behind every product we purchase. We rely too heavily on the labor of other people (abroad and in factories) for the products we need and desire. It's just plain good for our souls to take back our traditions and either make some of these things ourselves, or support other local folks who are good at making things with their own two hands.
The courageous artists and crafters who have chosen to devote part of their lives to making things we all want and need often have an interesting story to tell, too. Perhaps they learned to knit, crochet, or sew from their mother, who learned from her mother, who learned from her mother... Or maybe they are devoted to using recycled materials in their products, and are helping save us all from overflowing landfills. In any case, they are the holders of an important artistic and cultural legacy, and if we can help them prosper and continue to make the things they make, then they are more likely to inspire future generations to create handcrafted works of art as well.
Links to things we love
Fair Trade Organizations:
Transfair USA, transfairusa.org
Fair Trade Resource Network, fairtraderesource.org
Fair Trade Federation, fairtradefederation.org
Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International, fairtrade.net
The Emancipation Network, madebysurvivors.com
Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle:
Scrounger's Center for Reusable Art Parts (SCRAP), San Francisco. scrap-sf.org
East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, Oakland. creativereuse.org
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