Guest blog post by Prof. J.J. McMurtry

August 12, 2010

Last week Shop for Change attended an exciting workshop in Kerala that aimed to set up a fair trade textile supply chain that empowers women.  Professor J.J. McMurtry from York University in Canada provides this guest entry detailing the aspirations discussed at the event:

On August 3rd and 4th, over 40 representatives of Indian cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, and garment workers met alongside fair trade and organic researchers and traders from India and abroad to discuss the possibility of starting an alliance. This alliance in question would join together to create a unique product – cotton garment products created by a women-centered production chain stretching from the cotton fields all the way through to the hands of the consumer.  Organizers of the event were inspired by the fair trade coffee project, Cafe Feminino <http://www.cafefemenino.com/> , which is a brand of all women produced and democratically controlled fair trade coffee from Peru.  Cafe Feminino has been successful in creating greater economic and social security for its members.

 The meetings, held in Travandrum, were productive and the discussion broad ranging.  All aspects of the alliance were discussed, as was a detailed action plan. By the end of the second day, agreement had been reached to form an ad hoc committee to guide the alliance through its first months.  Also, members agree to work together to create a trial run of products for sale in the Indian market with the help of Shop for Change.  Finally, the members agreed that, should the trial run be successful, they would work together to create a fair trade and organic product line for export.

These meetings were unique for the fact that they brought together organizations which had never been in the same room together.  More importantly however they represent a historical opportunity for some of the most marginalized economic players in the production of cotton – women – to have control over all aspects of their economic activity and to reap then resulting benefits.  If the alliance lives up to its promise, the world of cotton production will never be the same!”

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