Fair Trade is not just about a fair price or good working conditions, although these are incredibly important, but the Charter of Fair Trade Principles also covers issues such as Gender Equity and the promotion and protection of Cultural Identity, both of which are extremely important in our work at Pachacuti.
Pachacuti combines British design with sustainable production in the Andes by women who are socially, geographically and economically marginalised. Pachacuti's Fair Trade purchasing gives the women a sustainable livelihood, enabling them to remain within their rural communities where they can fit hat weaving around the agricultural cycle and caring for their families.
This is particularly important in a community where 60% of children have at least one parent living overseas which has led to the devastation of families, alcoholism, a youth suicide rate twice the world average, increasing teenage pregnancies and declining school performance. Without a sustainable income to fit around the agricultural cycle, many of these women would be forced to move to urban centres or emigrate to the US to look for low-paid domestic work and would begin to lose touch with their cultural heritage.
Combining contemporary design with traditional creative techniques, we help to affirm their indigenous identity, preserve local culture, increase self-esteem and help the preservation of these skills for future generations.
Affirming our producers' indigenous identity through the preservation of their traditional skills is vitally important at present as many are in rapid decline - see my blog post on Ecuadorian Embroidery.
Matilda, pictured left, co-ordinates our embroidery group who live in a remote, mountainside location. On my last trip to Ecuador she told me "Every time I visit, the embroiderers ask if there are any orders from Pachacuti due to the higher Fair Trade prices paid. If there are no orders, they would rather earn money picking tree tomatoes as the market price for their skills is so low".
Our work to promote women's development and self-esteem is not only amongst our hat weavers, but extends to every one of our producer groups.
“With Pachacuti, we have participatory meetings...the women involved themselves at the beginning with a little timidity but they are beginning to participate more. Three groups of women are participating: single mothers, women totally independent of men and victims of domestic violence" Gonzalo Mariaca Cori, President of our knitwear co-op in Bolivia.
Pachacuti ensures that both women's work and traditional skills are properly rewarded and valued.