Buying directly from artisans in Nepal and Thailand.
Since 1999 Sander and Christy Cohen have been traveling to Nepal and Thailand to buy directly from Tibetan, Newar and Nepalese artisans. Our staff in Nepal can visit the artisans frequently and provide them with supplies and pay them in advance for their work. As jobs are hard to come by in Nepal, Dharmashop continues to grow and strenghen our network of artists in the Kathmandu Valley. We directly purchase from 3rd generation statue makers, carpet weavers and prayer flag producers.
The Ana Art Group and Handmade Expressions
In June 2012, SETU, our business partners in India, went to visit this artisan group, which is responsible for making the majority of our Indian jewelry. The report back was extremely motivating and supportive of the positive impacts made by sustainable development. What began as a small artisan group working from tiny, conjested work spaces in Old Delhi, is now a large community with an increase in education and improvements in health and environmental impacts. Below is a thorough breakdown of these impacts.
In the past 3 years, the group has grown from 15 members to 100. Wages have also increased for this group and family income in about 20-25% higher than standard for artisan work in their area. The increase in wages and community growth is due to the sustainable and continuos work the artisans have received and has allowed them to fulfill their basic requirements for a decent living. When visiting the artisans, they confirmed that they are enjoying a much more respectful, peaceful and balanced life and appreciate their partnership with Handmade Expressions who provides these products to Dharmashop.com
Education and Child Labor | Social Upliftment and Confidence Building
In the communities in this area, it is very common to send children to work after their 5th standard, in order to help earn income and help support the family. However, due to the sustainable growth of this community and the counseling SETU has provided the artisans, the group has begun keeping their children to schools. Even girls are beginning to attend school! The average literacy of the group has increased to 10th standard and the artisans are very proud that their children are capable of furthering their education. Artisans have opened up so much to the idea of education that they have even arranged night classes for themselves. The community expressed their excitement for the first member of the group to attend college!
These actions clearly represent a cultural shift in attitude towards the female role in a traditional Muslim community. The support of female education and the female artisan working openly in this community is fostering an educated and open society.
Healthy Work Conditions
The group began working from a congested and small space in Jama Masjid. They have recently moved their office to Sita Ram Bazar - where there are 4 large rooms, a kitchen and clean flushed toilets. The group prepares morning and evening tea for each other and the atmosphere is clean and comfortable.
What's also impressive about the group, is that they do not deduct salary for holidays or leaves. One woman explained how one month she had to take 10 days off due to sickness, and none of her salary was deducted. She also shared how the working conditions here were much better than her previous job and that fresh water and refreshments, social support and the education facility made this a dream work place for her!
The group has developed a trusting and comfortable work place. The group does not take unnecessary leaves and are willing to work late when required to finish their work. The work setting they have developed is very similar to that of our western corporate cultures with flexible freedom.
During prior visits to the artisan community, SETU along with artisans discussed and analyzed any health concerns. After several meetings together and the consultations with experts, solutions were presented. The main concerns were in relation to their electroplating unit. The artisans have now transferred the entire rooftop floor of their building into their electroplating unit. This space is much larger and provides for proper ventilation. Acid tanks were also made with FRP - which is a glass filled fiber sheet - to avoid any leakage. Anti-shocking flooring was installed to support safe working. An industrial electrical connection was installed and follows all government compliance and is non-polluting. Gloves and masks are being used during electroplating for health safety. The artisans played an important role in these developments and took ownership of improving their work area.
Sustainable Threads and Dharmashop.com
At Sustainable Threads we are committed to cultivating long-term fair trade relationships with low-income artisan communities. The artisans we work with are scattered across India and face diverse challenges and social concerns. We have a specific emphasis on artisan cooperatives and groups employing marginalized women. We aspire to provide these artisans access to fair wages, larger markets and secure, sustainable livelihoods. Beyond this, we try to work with groups that engage with local social and environmental concerns and create enriching opportunities and new possibilities for artisans and their communities.
We collaborate closely with these artisan cooperatives and groups in order to develop mutually-beneficial and long term trade relationships. These relationships allow us to offer customers beautiful and meaningful high quality products. All of the products made by these groups are hand-made, and carefully designed to be environmentally friendly.