How Fair Trade Organisations & Leaders Empower People - Fair Trade Stories
A Fair Trade Story About Jacky Bonney & MESH
Fair Trade Stories & Case Studies
Fair Trade Stories
Small businesses everywhere around the world have been challenged by The COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, by no fault of their own, many simply can't step out of their houses.
We are all back to basics in today’s COVID-19 world and rightfully so. We are in survival mode. Trade is revolving around the essentials and Craft business, being non-essentials, are slowly finding their revenue streams drying up. We got through March but beyond that is a mystery for some small business.
The Pandemic has forced people around the world to adjust to new norms, cope with loneliness, job loss, grief and more. It’s tough for all of us in different ways, not just physically but mentally too. We are cutting back the expenses we can afford to cut but, here at Uplift Fair Trade, our main concern is our artisans. How can we ensure that our artisans come out of this safely? In our next spotlight, Jacky Bonney shares with us how MESH is doing just that.
Jacky Bonney is a shining example of someone who has dedicated their life to helping those in need. A trained professional Nurse from the United Kingdom (UK), Jacky moved to India in the late 1970s to help, serve and build a leprosy colony in south India's Andhra Pradesh where she lived for 18 years.
In 1995 Jacky joined MESH, an organisation practicing Fair Trade for the rehabilitation of craft artisans who live with disabilities or are affected by leprosy. She led MESH for 20 years as Executive Secretary until 2015. She continues to volunteer within the organisation to help focus on their Fair Trade and Social Development.
Uplift asked Jacky about the groups associated with MESH and their particular role during the pandemic. Here's what Jacky said:
"MESH works with about 35 producers. They are located in 12 states across India and speak 7 different languages. Our aim as a result to the COVID-19 crisis is to try and keep as many people working as possible so that they can access money for their families. Many of our groups are closed because of the lockdown but one or two are able to work from home and have started to make masks to distribute. In the case of producer group Little Flower, since they have a lot of fabric in stock we have been able to ask them to make 3000 masks straight away for free distribution to the 21 leprosy communities in their neighborhood in the true spirit of Fair Trade Producers. We also have tailors with machines at home. They are making masks for their own community and gave some to the local police, but maybe now they do not have much raw material (unlike Little Flower) and with shops being closed accessing fabrics is also a problem. MESH will monitor and pay fair wages for the masks. We are asking people to donate towards that cost and are getting some support from various individuals too. "
There are three main areas that Mesh working at the movement:
- " Keep our customers informed with information so that they can keep their online shops posted with the latest news and pictures...that is going on already and now being extended for Australian and European clients.
- We are proud of our groups having the skills and quick action to serve their communities. Prowess (producer group) has an order for 50,000 masks for the local administration and Pagir (tailors) have also been making masks for their local administration in this way and in doing so keep money coming into families where there is likely to be no other sources of income at this time.
- MESH has also been in touch with the youth group in the leprosy colonies to find out what the needs are there. The response has been interesting. The people in the colony are receiving free food grains from the government and also gifts from donors in the area. The youth group leader said there was a greater need amongst poor people in slums around them and they have identified 28 families outside of the colony needing support. One of our colleagues is liaising with the youth group leader by phone and he has advised them that they should work out how they can buy for Rs 1000 (AU$ 20) worth of basic food and hygiene materials for each of those families and distribute them.
Until now we and a number of other organisations known to us have not been able to get e-passes (LockDown movement Pass) to go to the office to release funds which can be frustrating, in a situation like this when there is work to be done but we are tied up due to rules. "
Post COVID-19 the world is expected to be a bit different. Here's what Jacky had to say:
"We hope and pray that our customers will be able to weather the storm and business can pick up gradually. We have some orders in hand which we will ask the groups to work on either from home or once their units are allowed to open again but we (MESH) also will need to take some risks and order goods from producers to give them a chance to work. Once money starts flowing again the economy can gradually begin to pick up. Our team has ordered Christmas decorations from Care Kashmir (producer group) so as to give some work at this time when they do not have any orders and no possibility of getting any from other sources or selling locally. This is what Fair Trade can do, take some risks and reach out to caring customers to respond to the need for work. We will also be asking customers to let us know what sort of things they will be looking for post COVID lockdowns etc. so that we can place orders as soon as people are at work and get money moving around."
Artisans and products from Care Kashmir Project (click here to see more of their products)
Lockdown in India is very different and strict compared to other countries
"We have not been permitted to go for walks at all and can find ourselves in trouble with the police. As section 144 law being imposed (Section 144 is a Criminal Procedure Code that empowers an executive magistrate to issue orders in urgent cases of danger. Though the scope of Section 144 is wider, it is often used to prohibit an assembly of three or more persons when unrest is anticipated.). The lockdown days for me personally have been fairly smooth. We focussed on lots and lots of cleaning in the first couple of days, sorting out things that have been pending because of full-time work and a great way to burn off energy and doubts about the future. Baking bread and cakes have been a pleasure and we have three young men in the flat next door so have been sharing some of our baking with them. Morning and evening I try and walk on the roof as long as no one else is around. I have been following a tough workout that one of my colleagues' brothers suggested. I am also enjoying tending the handful of plants on our tiny balcony...we are growing tomatoes and they are helding fruits."
Now as work ramps up the challenge will be to keep home work and MESH work in separate slots....which is partly why I am using the spare bedroom for work.
Before we closed down our colleague was working on the Fair Trade living wage ladder. It is a complex tool and he had done a lot of work and was just preparing to share it with the staff team. A living wage will be a tough one to implement with producer groups post COVID when the primary goal will be to get some income and not risk orders with higher Fair prices, but perhaps it can be an opportunity too.
Online scrabble and ludo have been fun with people far away and lovely online calls services with our church have been a blessing."
We asked jacky if she has any suggestions for consumers/buyers of Fair Trade at this time.
"We know that Uplift Fair Trade had a whole big setback with the bushfires before COVID-19 so it must feel like an especially hard year. In spite, we really appreciate the efforts of Uplift Fair Trade to continue their support and not give up on us. I know from years in Fair Trade that what artisans want more than anything else is a steady flow of orders, if your customers can continue to buy, more so now than ever before: if they can actually choose to buy Fair Trade then that is the best way to support families in India as we come out of COVID-19. For it is work and especially work for women that will help people to pick up the thread of Fair Trade and support small business largely.
A fun fact about Jacky...
"A funny thing about me--I don't drink coffee or tea but I love chocolate and my friends say I make the strangest faces sometimes! The law in Delhi at the moment is that we have to wear masks if we go out. Hence my colleagues made me a mask in some leftover blouse material, a picture of my matching ensemble. "
"Hopefully, the Coronavirus passes soon and it has minimal impact on our Fair Trade warrior's lives. For the time being, we must never lose hope and continue to support those who need it most. Perhaps after the COVID-19, the world will think more about the environment, sustainability, and Fair Trade.
Remember Dr. Martin Luther King- “We must accept finite disappointment but we must never lose infinite hope."
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