The Plight of Women and Girls in India – Fairtrade Fortnight 2017 (Christine Snow)

We are delighted to bring you this article written by Christine Snow, of BAFTS’ supplier Kerala Crafts, about the plight of women and girls in India, to focus our minds leading up to Fairtrade Fortnight 27 February-12 March.


It is estimated that more than 85% of females in India are regarded as non-workers, thereby totally financially dependent on others.  Since women tend to live longer, and in the main stay at home, they are an easy target for abuse of all kinds.  So for many women life is hard and unfair.

Discrimination of females starts in the womb.  Though the results of scans revealing the gender of the child is forbidden, so as not to encourage abortion, this is often ignored.  There are many contributing factors as to why parents do not desire daughters, but the key factor is the provision of a dowry on the occasion of a daughter’s marriage.

When I first visited Kerala, I was often asked the question ‘What children do you have?’ and my answer of ‘3 daughters’, brought expressions of pity which said it all. This ‘downer’ on girls is often carried into childhood.  Whereas boys will be offered the best food as they are seen to be more deserving (bringing the benefits from their schooling into a wage-earning job), girls often receive inadequate nutrition as they will eventually be another family’s responsibility once they are married.

A woman’s place is traditionally seen to be in the home.  Educating a girl is broadly seen as a waste of time, when she could be working or carrying out domestic duties instead.  Encouragingly, there are social sector programmes eg ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ (Education for Everyone) which actively promotes education for girls to equalise educational opportunities and eliminate gender disparities, but these initiatives will take time to have a lasting effect.

Everywhere one turns in India, it’s women you will see hard at work – on construction sites, in fields, sowing paddy, in vegetable and fruit markets, in factories and homes, working tirelessly.  However, marriage, even a bad one, is seen as providing a certain amount of security and safety to women.

Kerala Crafts employs marginalised women and pays them a higher than average wage, which apart from all the benefits of fair-trade, also gives them some independence and a feeling of self-worth.  Women now have many opportunities and a voice in everyday life, but India is still a male-dominated society.  Working for Kerala Crafts offers women of all ages, castes and religions an ‘escape route’.  It is an opportunity to work in a good environment where the quality of their workmanship is appreciated and is reflected in the wages paid.  Just as importantly, they find a place to be themselves and share their problems.


The practice of hiding personal feelings pervades Indian culture where women frequently pretend everything is fine, where negativities are played down, so as to keep up a good image and standing for the acceptance of their family in society.  Therefore, their true potential is often denied as they are taught to ‘not own’ themselves.


Poor families on low wages, means poor standards of living.  They cannot afford education for their children and so the children are required to work to help with family finances.  A mother’s illiteracy and lack of education has a direct negative effect on her children.  With limited education mothers are less likely to adopt health-promoting opportunities such as child immunisation.  Malnutrition is inevitable with little money for nourishing food, and statistics show increased baby/child mortality amongst this group.

Child homelessness is a tragic symptom of a range of often interlinked causes.  Children may end up on the streets as they may have no choice.  India is home to the world’s largest population of street children.  UNICEF estimates that there are some 11 million children living on the streets at any one time.  They are abandoned, orphaned or disowned by their parents.  They may choose to live on the streets because of abuse, mistreatment or neglect or because their homes do not or cannot provide them with basic necessities.

Other factors include famine, natural and man-made disasters and displacement due to armed conflict.  With the continued growth of the Indian economy, migration of families to urban areas in search of a better life has also contributed to this problem, as has overcrowding in these urban areas.  The result is that street children live in extremely dangerous and horrific conditions.

They are usually malnourished with limited to no access to medical treatment.  On the street they receive no education.  India has the highest number of ‘out of school’ children in the world, and some 39% of children do not make it past grade 5 (age 10).  In the cities these children often turn to begging.  In more rural areas they become child labourers on farms or alongside their parents in other agricultural labour.2887605_orig

Marginalised by society, some children turn to drug and alcohol abuse or crime, whilst others are forced into prostitution or are physically and sexually abused.  Watching the film ‘Lion’ recently, a powerful and emotional true story, reminded me of some of our girls from the orphanage we support, one of whom was put on a train by her family and abandoned. Much of the work of Childline in India is working with children found on stations

S. was just 5 when she was left on a train by her stepmother, who was furious because the child’s employer complained about her!  After long and tedious journeys on different trains and experiencing much trauma, she found herself on the station platform in Kochi.  The railway police took her to Valsalya Bhavan (the orphanage we support), to be cared for and protected.  That was in 2002, and she has now been adopted by a loving family in Hyderabad.

Another of our girls R. was sold to a family for Rs100 (£1.18) to work as a servant, but who was then sold on again for a higher price.  She was forced to work in the family house, but was locked in a dog kennel when the family went out.  Yet another is B. whose sister became pregnant by their father (now in prison), but has now turned her life around, thanks to the orphanage.  The deep traumas that many of the girls have experienced, makes living a ‘normal’ life very difficult.  These personal stories are not the exception, they are the norm.  All the girls have similar stories in their past – often too painful to speak of.

Fortunately the love and nurturing at the orphanage goes some way to creating a stable childhood for the girls.  They have opportunities that they would never have experienced if they had stayed within their family.  When I visit, it is a joy to see them joining in with the extra-curricular activities, such as dance, gardening, sport and outings as well as the basics of education, homework and a share in the chores.  This is equipping them to be self-reliant when they leave the relative safety of the orphanage.


By supporting mothers through fair-trade employment, it enables children to receive an education – the key to step out of poverty.  Mums can afford to send their children to school and avoid intergenerational cycles of poverty that exploits children, and thus enables improved long-term prospects for their children.  Fairtrade values people and communities, opening up access to education, medical services and a higher quality of life.

The greatest way fairtrade can make an impact is through consumers.  Consumers yield a unique power to reduce exploitation around the world.  So when consumers demand ‘free from’ child labour and exploitation, companies will listen.

Kerala Crafts is not lining the pockets of big corporations or sweat shops.  It’s providing a fair wage for people who need it most, mainly small women’s co-operatives and the suppliers in the Kudumbashree schemes.  Kerala Crafts relies entirely on volunteers to manage it, and the small profit is sent back to support community projects and the orphanage.

For more information on the orphanage please see


  1. What price do you put on having running water available to you, rather than spending your day  walking back and forth to public taps?

2. How much would it be worth to know your children can go to school for free?

  1. How much would you pay to know you can get a hot meal at your place of work and free school meals are available for your children if needed?
  1. How much would you pay to be able to have an ongoing job with all its benefits?
  1. How much would you pay to visit your doctor or hospital free of charge?
  1. How much is it worth to have a sufficient supply of electricity?

 Empowering women to better the world

Buying fair-trade can help to change whole communities, generations and futures!

Posted in Fair Trade

“Believe You Can” wins Gift of the Year 2017 “Fair trade” Award for Fairy tutus

The past few days have seen our usual visit to Spring Fair to visit as many of our exhibiting suppliers as possible over the space of a day and a half. It was great to see so many vibrant looking fair trade stalls with a huge array of products and on the whole business seemed to be good.

The highlight of the visit was when we got to Louise Birchmore’s stand for her BAFTS’ business Believe You Can which designs a whole host of fairy goods, gifts and accessories and has these made by WFTO-approved Fair Trade producers in India. 50% of their profits support local community welfare projects such as AIDS awareness clinics, an Accident Relief Centre, and two schools. She has been in business for ten years.

WFTO_approved Fair Trade workers in India create Believe You Can's range of fairies

WFT0-approved Fair Trade workers in India create Believe You Can’s range

Louise had already told us that she had applied for the newly-created Fair Trade category of Gift of the Year Award 2017, and knew that she had been short-listed. The Award Ceremony took place on the evening of Sunday 5th February and we were delighted to learn that she had been chosen as the Winner in this category. Her Fair Trade Fairy Tutus were apparently selected because they were not what the judges felt to be a typically fair trade product.

There is quite a lot of kudos goes with winning such an Award. The Gift of the Year website tells us that winners and their products will get:

“Profile-raising media coverage as part of the major PR campaign to the national trade and consumer press; product Endorsement with the acclaimed Gift of the Year status – Winner, Highly Commended or Judges’ Overall Choice; Inclusion in the Gift of the Year catalogue distributed within the UK and overseas; and dedicated Gift of the Year point of sale and marketing material for use at exhibitions and for in store displays.”

We are delighted for Louise and her business, for her producers and for the community of BAFTS as well. Below is Louise with her well-deserved award and her fairy tutus either side of her.


Posted in Fair Trade

Fairtrade Fortnight 2017 “It’s Time To Put Fairtrade In Your Break”

This year, Fairtrade Fortnight fills its usual slot early in the year, and runs from 27 February to 12 March. The theme is “It’s Time to Put Fairtrade In Your Break” and the following extract from the Fairtrade Foundation’s website explains why this Campaign Fortnight is as important as ever:

“The food on our tables, the tea and coffee in our mugs, all from farmers who toil, sweat and slog. However hard they work to provide the things we depend on, millions of farmers in developing countries aren’t paid what they deserve. It’s not a new problem. We need to amplify the voices of marginalised producers as much as ever in 2017.

When we come together we can change the way people think about trade and the products on our shelves – the Fairtrade movement is made up of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their communities for Fairtrade. Your actions help shoppers to make choices that change the lives of farmers and workers.

Join thousands of others across the UK this Fairtrade Fortnight to help our friends, neighbours, colleagues and communities to put Fairtrade in their break and take exploitation out.”

0000459_the-event-starter-pack_415As Professor Bob Docherty, Professor of Marketing and Principal Investigator of IknowFood (Global Food Security Fund 4-year programme), University of York, writes in his article on How Fairtrade helps level the playing field for small producers, Fairtrade helps provide security for impoverished families and prevent seasonal hunger between harvests by providing longer-term security and a better price; plus the stability of the minimum price can help co-operatives to access finance agreements.

For more information, visit the Fairtrade Foundation website  and look at how you can show your support.


Posted in Fair Trade

BAFTS’ Executive Officer a special guest at opening of Dundee Ethical Xmas Fair

It was a delight to be invited to come and speak on behalf of BAFTS at the Ethical Christmas Fair running in Dundee from 3-18 December and organised by Tania Pramschufer of Hand Up events. The event has usually run in Edinburgh but a change was felt necessary for their 10th Anniversary and Dundee City Square was selected. It brings together fair trade, ethical, international and local stalls and provides a wide selection of different, interesting products in one marquis. BAFTS members Lumina Jewellery and Zuri Design were there, and One World Shop and Hadeel will have stalls later on. Angus Coull from Bala Sport was attending in his capacity as a Director for the Scottish Fair Trade Forum.


Kathryn,our Executive Officer; Angus Coull from Bala Sport in his role as SFTF Director, Margaret Galabe from World Women Fair Trade and Tania Pramschufer, organiser, from Hand Up events.

The official opening took place on Monday 5th December, and included speeches from the Depute Lord Provost of Dundee, Christina Roberts; Margaret Galabe from World Women Fair Trade; myself; representatives of Dundee City Council and Tania herself. Also in attendance was Sally Romilly, Global Learning Advisor from Dundee One World Centre, Green Santa and members of the local Press and television. It was good to be able to promote BAFTS to an audience and show off our banner, plus leave leaflets with Picky from Lumina Jewellery.

I was also able to talk to some other stalls about possible interest in BAFTS, although they were quite busy most of the time. There again, as they had been in the Summer, were two stalls from Kenya: Sarah from Sanyo Crafts, and Dorothy Taro from Dorostel International, and it was good to catch up with them again. There were also stalls from the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, Blue Llama, RSPB, local food outlets, an ethical cafe, a variety of local businesses, Neal’s Yard remedies, and ACTSA . It was a warm friendly festive atmosphere despite being very very cold and it may well be that Tania is looking for more stallholders in the future, including from BAFTS, so watch this space!

To see a whole host of other images please go to our Facebook page uploads and to our Gallery page on this website. You will need to refer back to this article for who is who, as the captions were too long to include!

Posted in Fair Trade

Our Exec Officer helps open Ethical Christmas Fair Dundee Mon 5th December

We are delighted that our Executive Officer, Kathryn Sygrove, has been asked to help open the Hand Up Ethical Christmas Fair in Dundee on Monday 5th December at 1pm alongside the Lord Provost.

The Fair itself is usually held in Edinburgh but this year, its 10th Anniversary, it is being held in Dundee City Square from 3rd -18th December, and will feature local stalls, ethical and fair trade stalls from abroad and Scotland. Its opening times are 10am – 6pm (7pm Thurs to Sat). Kathryn will be talking briefly about BAFTS and the importance of supporting BAFTS’ shops in the UK. We are very much looking forward to being part of this exciting event.


Posted in Fair Trade

Ethical Consumer Conference: Fiona Gooch (Traidcraft) Retail Sourcing Practises

Although it is over a month since this very enlightening Conference, many of the discussions are still highly relevant. Fiona Gooch, Senior Policy Advisor at Traidcraft, talked with authority about the transparency of, and improvements to, retailers’ sourcing practises. As Grocery Code Adjudicator Christine Tacon’s role (otherwise known as the GCA or Supermarket Watchdog) is currently being statutorily reviewed by the government until 10th January 2017 under public consultation, it is well worth looking at what an extension of her role could do to improve accountability in the retail supply chain. To hear the full speech please listen in here.

Fiona stated that Traidcraft’s mission is to see trade organised in such a way that it fights poverty. They operate a Policy and Campaigns Unit as mainstream trade is not done optimally. Traidcraft brings products into the UK in a manner benefitting a defined group of people and finds it vital to define which groups will benefit in their supply chain. They choose to work with labour-intensive groups.

The predominant reality of supply chains is that you have to analyse where the power lies. In food and garment supply chains, the retailers push risks down the supply chain. They want lower prices, with fast and flexible production, high technical standards and good working conditions on the one hand and cheaper prices, immediate availability and demands for expedited air freight on the other. The producers and suppliers are put in an impossible situation. The garment industry sees many examples of short term contracts, no unions, cheap and migrant labour, sub-contracting and labour rights’ violations being hidden.

The way to get change is to analyse the supply chains and work out where the power is. In the case of food it lies with the supermarkets. To establish the problem, you need to look at their buying practises and that is why Traidcraft campaigned for the setting up of the role of Grocery Code Adjudicator, currently held by Christine Tacon. This key regulator has now been in place for three years. The 10 largest supermarkets systematically put down excessive unnecessary risks on to their suppliers. Suppliers to the supermarkets are afraid of complaining. She can initiate complaints and put down penalties or 1% of turnover, and can name and shame. She publishes her findings once a year.

Fiona made the noteworthy statement that retailers do not make or transform product. They buy goods, which are driven (by someone else often) to their warehouses and stored (probably by someone else) and place the goods on their shelves with about a 40% mark-up. The GCA enforces a Code of purchasing practises and has seen noted improvements due to her investigations. There have on some occasions been worsening situations. This goes to show that “transparency” is great but enforcement is the way to go.

The consultation of which we speak at the start of the article could well open up her powers. She can currently enforce on “first tier” relationships ie between the supermarkets and the importer, or the supermarket and the manufacturer. But the manufacturers can also exert massive pressure down the supply chain and the GCA’s powers need extending too to so-called “second-tier” relationships. Let’s hope the outcome is positive in January.

Posted in Fair Trade

Anti-Poverty Week 16-22 October 2016 #FairTradebreakspoverty

As a member of WFTO, BAFTS positively supports Anti-Poverty Week running from 16-22 October, and encourages all of its members by extension to do likewise. Our Facebook and Twitter banners have been changed and can be downloaded and used for the same purposes on member pages. If BAFTS’ members are indeed using social media, the hashtag #FairTradeBreaksPoverty is the one which we are asked to adhere to.


WFTO’s Press Release regarding the 2016 ANTI-POVERTY WEEK is as follows:

“Fair Trade = no poverty! This year WFTO observes Global Anti-Poverty Week (16-22 October 2016) by promoting the 10 Principles of Fair Trade as means to eradicate poverty as desired by the first goal of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – NO POVERTY.

WFTO believes that the principles of Fair Trade are effective overarching tools to fight poverty. Using the concept of ‘Agent for Change’ (Fair Trade as an agent for change), WFTO’s formula to eradicate poverty is:  Fair Trade + Economic Opportunities = No Poverty. We would like you to join the awareness raising campaign. For the campaign, we use the icons of Fair Trade Principle 1 and Sustainable Development Goal 1 to represent visually our formula for change. See visual illustration below.” BAFTS and its members ara asked to upload images to social media of our “Agents for Change” with these icons, showing the part which Fair Trade plays in the eradication of poverty.


Posted in Fair Trade

Notes from Paul Monaghan, Fair Tax Mark, on “Tax Avoidance & public sector Procurement”

14572755_1813158625636604_5080757226764925972_nThe original speech was given by Paul Monaghan, one of the Directors of the Fair Tax Mark, at the Ethical Consumer Conference, on September 30th in London. These are my notes from re-listening via the Ethical Consumer website. Whilst all the subjects discussed were fascinating and eye-opening, this is the area about which I knew the least and felt it essential to share a greater understanding of how companies avoid tax and how they may be excluded from public sector contracts.

Paul has been involved in the area of Corporate Responsibility for 25 years. Ethical Consumer was also at the forefront of getting the Fair Tax Mark set up. Over this period of time, virtually every issue relating to corporates has seen progress – apart from executive remuneration and tax avoidance. All that changed in 2011. However, it was as long ago as 1961 when John Kennedy expressed concerns about this self-same problem.

14485146_1813158592303274_5919010143935245201_nThe extent of brazen tax avoidance forced people to come together and take action: journalists, politicians, campaigners and corporates all took a stand and wanted to state their part and, in the case of companies, show that they were being honest. Whilst the EU is one of the most aggressive regulators of this avoidance, when they took Apple to court it was about actions from 25 years hence. Paul pointed out that most people also knew who the bad guys appeared to be eg Starbucks, Facebook, and there was no way of rewarding the companies showing integrity.

With no movement by 2014, the Fair Tax Mark was set up. It helped identify those companies who were quietly paying their taxes and avoiding tax havens. They met resistance by corporates who said it was too complex and wouldn’t stand up. But they were proved wrong and reckon they must have been right when KPMG (one of the major auditors) rubbished it and claimed they were bringing out their own version – which they didn’t. It was clear that businesses needed a policy on corporate tax.

The Fair Tax Mark looks at whether companies do business with tax havens; who the beneficial owners of the company are; tax rates have to be disclosed, as well as deferred tax; and this must be listed country by country. Points are awarded for filing your corporation tax return – because nobody at HMRC checks to see if this is done. It is in essence a voluntary standard for something that should be mandatory, but isn’t.

14519708_1813158635636603_4990298765892436074_nAt first Co-ops and social enterprises came on board, alongside mutual societies, then FTSE businesses and private companies started taking note. That was when the Financial Press took an interest. But the Fair Tax Mark does not leave it to the market to enforce – it needs regulatory teams. Some local councils have changed their procurement guidance to shun tax evaders and avoiders. In fact some Councils are arguing about which political party started the work or has now moved to enforce this decision as they want to take the credit for taking this change forward.

Posted in Fair Trade

Gateway Sunday…a Service with Heather Thompson, Traidcraft Exchange

Sunday 4th September was the date for the annual Gateway Sunday, a Church service in St. Nicholas’ Church, Durham, when BAFTS’ shop Gateway World Shop (which is housed in the former vestry and has been for over 25 years) works with the vicar taking the sermon to raise themes of justice and fairness in our consumption habits, and invites speakers to talk about issues which are related to its mission as part of the Church. The shop is usually open after the service for the congregation to browse as well.

This year the guest speaker was Heather Thompson from Traidcraft Exchange who focussed on the whole issue of well being resulting from the benefits which fair trade can bring to an employee and his or her family and community. Fair trade brings not just economic wellbeing such as fairer wages, better terms of trade and improved livelihoods. It benefits in so many other ways too, in health and education, building self esteem, improving dignity and bringing social acceptance. Being able to contribute to their communities gives a voice, confidence and empowerment to people who had none of these things. Fair trade changes lives, giving safety and security. In every successful fair trade story we can see hope for a better future.

Traidcraft tea farmer

Traidcraft tea farmer

The congregation was reminded of the huge difference which the purchase of fairly-traded gifts, crafts, and foods can make to the lives of impoverished producers striving to keep their heads above the poverty line and were shown a Traidcraft video which highlighted this. The shop Manager Hazel Dobson puts many hours into ensuring that this service is as effective and enjoyable as possible and that the campaign message is clearly understood.

Posted in Uncategorized

Edinburgh in a day: the Fair and Ethical Trade on the Fringe, and Just Festival

Key elements of the Just Festival summed up in an excellent poster.

Key elements of the Just Festival summed up in an excellent poster.

On Tuesday I was given the opportunity to visit Edinburgh to attend the Fair and Ethical Trade on the Fringe event  running from 7-27 August, and to attend some exhibitions and a drama as part of the Just Festival which runs concurrently from 5-28 August. The fair is an opportunity to visit and buy from ethical stalls from abroad eg Kenya and Peru; from fair trade stalls from Edinburgh and farther afield, and some local craft and food stalls. The Just Festival creates a space for dialogue and platforms for engagement in local, national and international questions of social justice, equality and identity. In line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it celebrates humanity in all its differences, promoting the exploration of new perspectives with the aim of reducing religious, political and social intolerance.

Kathryn, BAFTS'  Executive Officer, with Picky Saud of Lumina Jewellry

Kathryn, BAFTS’ Executive Officer, with Picky Saud of Lumina Jewellry

It was great to meet BAFTS’ members Lumina Jewellery and One World Shop on their stalls at the fair, as well as the event organiser Tania Pramschufer. I had the opportunity to talk with two stallholders from Kenya – Dorostel International and Sanjo Artists – about their organisations and how they were helping women in small communities; and to other UK-based stallholders about a potential interest in joining BAFTS. There was time to pop in on Hadeel selling crafts and food from Palestine, and meet with Equal Exchange for a catch-up chat. The whole city was abuzz, as both the above events sat alongside the Edinburgh Fringe Festival itself and a book festival too!

I intended to visit some exhibitions on Gaza and Displacement of refugees but these had been damaged by severe winds. I managed to see one small one on refugees which was a bonus. The day was rounded off with attending a beautiful, hopeful, proud and vibrant drama entitled “Beautiful Resistance” by Al Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Society, a group of young Palestinians living in Aida refugee camp and working through the daily challenges and restrictions of Israeli occupation and violence through drama, dance and music. They were supported by the Amos Trust. As the General Director of the Alrowwad Theatre Society, Abdelfattah Abusrour, who introduced them and spoke of some of them being delayed and imprisoned before release, and last minute visa rejections being overturned,  said:

Al Rowwad Beautiful Resistance drama

Al Rowwad Beautiful Resistance drama

“As Palestinian refugees, we do not have the luxury of despair. We choose Beautiful Resistance”.

(The link to Al-Rowwad goes through to images from the event on their Facebook page, as their website is in Arabic. To see all BAFTS’ images from the day, please go to the BAFTS’ Facebook page and see our posted and shared pictures on 17th August.)

Posted in Fair Trade
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