Written for Fair Trade USA by Brook Eddy
As a single mother starting my chai company, I knew from the inception that we needed to use Fair Trade Certified tea. Building a company that could, on some small level, help women build a business or save money for their daughter’s education wasn’t inspired merely by my own role as a mother. It was a poignant experience I had while visiting India that moved me to make a difference.
I watched as women sat in a circle, saris splayed and splattered across the cement floor. While it felt like there were tambourines vibrating around the circle, predicting a holy occasion – it was just the faint sound of bells dangling from wrists and ankles as each woman took a turn speaking passionately.
This was not a spiritual gathering – these women came together to talk business, to talk community renovation. A group of workers building a collective, where one voice became the echoing boom for change.
Thankfully, Fair Trade tea was widely available when I was starting Bhakti Chai. While the premium pricing didn’t look good for our bottom line, the social impact was far more important than profits. Our direct Fair Trade dollars, when in the hands of mothers, guarantees that communities have books, medicine, education, science, vaccines, and technology.
Because of Fair Trade certification efforts, tea pickers in India are not just getting a livable wage, but a competitive wage through Fair Trade farms. They’re seeing Fair Trade dollars at work creating healthy communities through the building of schools and health clinics. They are feeling less of a burden by working manageable hours, experiencing better working conditions, and rewarded with more income than they’ve ever seen before.
The World Food Programme found that when women earn income, they reinvest 90% of it in their families and communities, unlike men that re-invest at the rate of 35%. In addition, increased funds in their family ensures their daughters stay in school longer and do not have to work at home, in the fields, or get married early.
“INVESTMENT IN GIRLS’ EDUCATION MAY WELL BE THE HIGHEST-RETURN INVESTMENT AVAILABLE IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD.” – LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIST AT THE WORLD BANK.
It could be an amazing transformation to see in just 15 years how Fair Trade purchasing ALONE can change the power structure for women in the fields picking tea, starting collective businesses, Internet start ups, artistic endeavors, and social impact ventures by all of us making a little conscious shift in our purchasing every day.
We at Bhakti Chai feel honored to know that the premium we pay on our Fair Trade Certified tea not only directly helps women and mothers – but is a cool compress of self-sufficiency for creating the next generation of educated women, entrepreneurs, land owners, and community leaders.
As we approach Mother’s Day, may we all be reminded of the millions of Mothers working to make a difference in this world and feel empowered that we too can help this salient revolution everyday by voting for women with your Fair Trade Certified dollars. It’s a simple yet truly significant way to make strides in improving leadership and education opportunities for Moms on a global level.