Happy Fall! As the semester kicks off, I just wanted to take this chance to talk about fair trade and some of the common questions and misconceptions the topic faces. This is an important topic to talk about because many people don’t fully understand fair trade.
Starting with the basics, the definition of fair trade is a way of buying and selling in which fair wages are paid to producers in developing countries. Fair trade is a powerful tool to reduce poverty through your everyday shopping.
Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace sells products from artisans in underdeveloped communities around the world, boasting six main sites in Ecuador, Kenya, and Mexico. The artisans are paid fairly for their work and we are able to sell their products in Madison, Wisconsin and online around the United States to help our international partners generate additional income for education, healthcare and the other needs in their communities.
Do Fair Trade products cost more than conventional products?
Fair trade products are not necessarily more expensive, as they are competitively priced with similar high quality products. However, fair trade items are likely more expensive than cheap, mass-produced items. Additionally, while fair trade items can appear more costly, it is likely that they will last longer than a low-quality item. This can be a small price to pay, in knowing that your purchase is helping build and develop sustainable businesses and communities around the world.
Does fair trade pay developed world wages in developing countries?
The reality is that wages offer fair compensation according to the true cost of production in the country of production, and are not based on first world country wage standards. Metrics that go into determining fair wages include the amount of time, skill, and effort in the making of the products, as well as the usual living wages in the area in which the product is made. A lot of the wages of our artisans are determined with our partners because our artisan partners have businesses of their own. Our goal is to empower them through collaboration with the students, faculty and staff on campus at UW-Madison.
Is fair trade a form of charity?
On the contrary, fair trade serves as a vehicle to help individuals and groups in developing countries become self-sufficient and empowered with their own businesses. Our artisans often use the money they make to support their communities, by enabling local children to attend school, paying for the fees and materials, financing rebuilding efforts following an earthquake or even supporting the operations of local museums. The success of fair trade is not measured by donations received, but rather the independence that the artisans can achieve.
Hopefully I have helped to answer a few of the questions you have about fair trade! Our nonprofit student organization is committed to maintaining fair trade practices to continue to make an impact economically, socially and environmentally in our community and our global artisans’ communities, alike.
At Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace, we’ve slowed down operations as we enjoy summer. Despite slowing down and turning our attentions to learning, we’re still committed to telling the stories of our global artisans and continue to strengthen our ties with them. By spotlighting the amazing individuals that contribute to our extremely interconnected organization, we are able to better explain our purpose and hopefully, help make the world a little bit better.
With team members fine tuning their skills in different industries all across the globe, we’re hoping to reconnect in the next month or two with our strongest executive team yet. The lessons we’re learning through our summer internships, jobs and travels are helping us learn how to improve the best practices of our small scale empowerment operation.
With the dog days of summer already here, there’s still opportunities to be a part of the empowerment we live by. Our online store is still active and a great way to pick out some bright summer accessories before our new fall line comes in, as well as dressing up your summer wardrobe!
Statement jewelry has a special power, and some of the products at WWB Marketplace can create that power. In my personal experience, whenever I wear any of my pieces, I get compliments; however, it also creates a venue for conversation. When someone mentions how much they love my rosa La Calera papas fritas earrings, I’ll launch into the story of the artisan who hand crafted them, speaking passionately of our friends at Sumak Muyo.
Sometimes these conversations, whether it’s at the office, in the grocery store or on the street, turn into something bigger. The stories of WWB Marketplace, our artisans and our university collaborators become one part of larger story of the power of a collaborative world and ideas of successful empowerment, sustainable development and connection, in all its capacities.
By sharing the stories, the products or the power of WWB Marketplace whether over the internet or in person, we can connect and change the world.
When I imagined my freshman year of college, never did I see myself joining something as important as Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace, much less traveling to Ecuador. Throughout the year, I worked not just to sell beautiful jewelry and textiles from our artisans but to learn and share their stories. When I was given the opportunity to visit our site in La Calera, Ecuador, I was ecstatic! I had heard so much about the artisans and their community and felt an internal need to see and meet them for myself.
Co-Directors Madeleine Wagner and Kealey Clemens, External Relations Coordinator Cindy Peréz and me, Event Coordinator, finally landed in Quito, Ecuador after three different flights. My excitement was almost as high as the altitude. Immediately, we were awed by the beautiful, mountainous landscapes. After spending the night in Quito, a taxi brought us to Flora’s house in La Calera.
Flora is the leader of ‘Sumak Muyo.’ The business name, Sumak Muyo, means “good seed” in their indigenous language, Quitchua. The day following our arrival, we were given a tour of the community by Flora and Marisol. The women showed us different community areas including ponds where they raise Tilapia. On special days, the community cooks and enjoys the fish all together. We got a chance to try it, and it was delicious!
Later that day, I met my gracious host for the week, Inez. She is a part of Sumak Muyo, but she also does works in Otavalo and the surrounding community to promote gender equality and to help victims of violence.
A lot of how change is made is through education. Women have become leaders in the communities that relay the importance of education to their children. La Calera is dedicated to preserving their indigenous culture and expanding the education of the community’s youth with the help from the jewelry business profits.
Throughout the week, we worked with the women to see how they make the jewelry and figure out ways that we could support their efforts. They showed us their work space at Flora’s house where they gather around 9 a.m. to begin work each day. Collaboratively, we created a new line of colors for the WWBM La Calera fall collection after looking through the bead inventories.
Then, together, we went with to a neighboring city, Otavalo, where the women of Sumak Muyo buy the beads. In Otavalo, we learned, firsthand, why it can sometimes be difficult to find the same colors every time.
Later, we saw how the women of Sumak Muyo pieced the products together and then, they had us give it a shot for ourselves. Collaboratively, we worked on developing new designs for men and women that will hopefully launch within the next year! Throughout the week, we learned the stories of our wonderful partners, friends and collaborators. We got to know them and their children, and shared many interesting conversations and laughs.
Overall, I will forever cherish having the chance to be immersed in the Spanish language and Ecuadorean culture. It was amazing seeing how these incredible women are becoming leaders in their communities through microenterprise and international collaboration.
!Ojala que tenga la oportunidad para regresar! | Hopefully I will have the chance to go back
This was blog was written by Ashley Summers, Event Coordinator.
Summer has arrived. Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace had a busy couple of weeks to finish off the spring semester and kick off the start of summer. Between the last few events of the school year, final exams and preparing for WWB Marketplace next semester, everybody has been on the move. We’ve had some big events like the School of Human Ecology’s Impact Fashion Show and the Morgridge Center’s Day of Service this spring. These events were able to help us strengthen our engagement with our community here at home and contribute to the success we share collectively with our friends here and abroad.
We were proud that our very own Graphic Design Coordinator, Erica Hess, had some of her original pieces in the spring Impact fashion show this spring! The event also allowed us to reconnect with some of our friends in the Global Artisan Design class who helped transform our current products into what we have today. Each piece only seems to get more beautiful every season. It was great to hear the stories of some many of the individuals who all play a different role in the connection outside of the business executive team that I interact with frequently. We were also able to share the success with our friends abroad by telling them the stories of our sales and events, and of course reinvesting profits back into their communities.
But this time it was in person!
This past week, four of our coordinators, Madeleine Wagner, Kealey Clemens, Cindy Pérez and Ashley Summers went to La Calera, Ecuador to meet with our global artisans. They’ve learned so much in Ecuador and have had a blast with the community in La Calera.
Madeleine mentioned the other day that they picked out colors for the WWB Marketplace fall collection. In between coffee breaks, they have also been working out designs for some new products and dancing with the community. When they settle back into summertime state side, they might even do a little guest blogging to tell their stories and our partner’s stories, first hand. Their plan was to lead workshops, learn the stories of our artisans more personally and connect with the community. We’ll be eager to hear the full details soon!
As for the rest of the team, with school out of session our staff is scattered all over the world. Our social media guru, Sophia Goldschmidt, will be spending the summer months in Australia working on social media with a foreign company. Hannah Keeser our master of wholesale operations spent some time already in Nicaragua for a global health field study. Our True Cost event queen, Jessica Stanislaus graduated and is now taking on the world. And I'll be keeping with the affairs of the nation and the world from Washington D.C. So keep your eyes peeled on social media for WWB Marketplace around the world. If you’re going on an adventure, take your WWBM pieces with, snap a picture and tag us in it --you never know, you might get featured!
This week was Global Health Week on campus which played host to a whole range of events. At Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace, we were happy to be a part of this incredible week, and we look forward to increasing our involvement with the Global Health Coalition. The week kicked off with a Global Health Symposium featuring Dr. Mohammed Dalwai at the Health Services Learning Center. Dr. Dalwai works with Doctors Without Borders, serving as the president of their Southern Africa operations. He spoke about the impact people can have on global health today, and how we can all act to make our world a better place for the future.
The rest of Global Health Week followed the same local to global theme, and WWB Marketplace was featured at some of the on campus events. On Wednesday night, we were able to participate in the Local & Global Health Stories-"Food & Health Justice" event where we connected with other advocates of global health and international development. The event featured student stories, but also doubled as an organization fair. It was wonderful to engage with other students and campus organizations that share our passion for health and social justice and learn about the work they are doing on campus and abroad.
Often times at WWB Marketplace we get caught up in our individual mission of empowering our specific partner communities in Mexico, Ecuador and Kenya, but so many other people are driven by a similar passions and values right within Wisconsin. Being a part of and meeting other participants of Global Health Week helped us at Wisconsin Without Borders connect more deeply with the larger community on campus who are also striving to do good on the international stage.
To end an exciting week celebrating health, empowerment and social movements around the world, WWBM had the privilege of partnering with Change Boutique to host our own event - a showing of the documentary True Cost followed by a fair trade product sale. Garment production is one of the largest industries internationally, and the documentary showed us how the human and environmental costs of "fast fashion" and consumerism negatively impact people in the US and abroad. The burden lies particularly heavily on the world's poor, with the industry often exploiting workers in low income countries desperate to attract international brands, casting aside fair wages and worker protections to win contracts. By sharing the stories of some workers and suppliers of the garment industry through the True Cost documentary, we were able to glad to promote the importance of fair trade consumerism to both our campus and larger Madison community.
A few Fridays ago, Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace ventured off campus to Middleton High School to take part in their fair trade event. The high school students hosted a fair trade product sale at their Performing Arts Center on Friday afternoon,and Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace was one of the invites! Throughout the day it was incredible to tell the stories of our global artisans to a different crowd than we normally see. The students were eager to learn more about our products and loved the colors that we had. They were impressed that our products could be affordable while our business model allows our partners to be paid a fair wage for their products.
Being at a smaller event allowed us to get to know some of our ethical fashion friends a little better too! We managed meet our new friends at Servv on a more personal level which helps to build connections in our community so that we can empower and collaborate at the local level. It was nice to hear about their work connecting the Madison community to so many other countries through their two locations. Some of the other organizations at the event were familiar faces we've seen before in our fair trade circles but hadn't yet connected with. Hearing other people's stories about why they buy and sell fair trade inspires me to work harder for Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace.
I love being a part of an organization that employs empowering practices and collaborates with international partners through the exchange ideas and beautiful jewelry and other accessories. The stories we hear through collaborative efforts are some of the strongest inspirations for our actions.
One of the partnerships that I think makes WWB Marketplace so unique is our relationship with the School of Human Ecology’s Masters of Fine Arts students. Their insights, abilities and talents truly drive our organization forward and keep us current with trends. One of the new insights they provided are the hot new spring colors. By collaborating with our global artisans, the SoHE students developed our new line's orange and turquoise theme. The colors pop in a way that I have never seen in any of our products before.
The brilliant blues and oranges that make up or spring collection will be showcased on our Instagram account in the coming weeks. Keep following us on our social media pages to see the colors, or stop by one of our sales to see the exciting new colors firsthand.
Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace is a happening place. The blog posts were a little slow last semester, but that came about with the flurry of transition. The non-profit student organization has only been a registered student organization for about a year now, which means that we are still at the very beginning stages of our growth.
Last semester, the only post I managed to write was about the new executive team when so many other things happened. We had sales. We gained local partnerships like Change Boutique and the Robin’s Nest. We expanded our social media use. I know I had a hard time getting the hang of understanding all of the duties encompassed in my position and often felt overwhelmed or that I wasn’t doing enough to help the cause that is so near and dear to my heart. I was trained as a journalist, but all of the sudden I found myself on the other side of the table talking to journalists and finding talented writers to tell the story of the organization I had saddled myself to instead.
Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace is so much more than the empowered communities and the beautiful product lines our artisans create. Part of our mission statement is sharing the stories of our products and partnerships. This semester, I hope to be doing a lot more of that. The organization has so many unique individuals working for the same collaborative goal. From our Masters of Fine Arts students in the Global Artisan Design class designing improvements for our product lines to our artisans in-country, even the business team that I am so proud to be a part of, WWB Marketplace has opened my eyes to the power of collaboration.
With unity in my heart, I am thrilled to announce the expansion of our business team once more. This semester we have taken on three new members to join the executive staff. Cindy Pérez, Jessica Stanislaus and Erin Tenderholt all come with diverse backgrounds and unique experiences to help make this semester of Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace the best semester yet.
As the organization continues to expand, we decided to restructure our team so that more people can be a part of the collaborative effort. Starting next Monday, our sales team will kick off their training. The executive staff is excited to see where this group of excited individuals takes the organization and all of the good that can be shared.
Wishing a warm welcome to our new team members and until next time, this is Jen Wagman.
Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace changed a few members and added new product venues since last semester. The organization, however, maintains the same mission of collaboration and empowerment through sustainable enterprise and we kept some of the same faces - such as our directors, Madeline Wagner and Rebecca Gilbert - but there are many new leaders contributing a variety of new ideas which have allowed us to have more sale locations for our products.
We have been fortunate enough to have venues all over the UW-Madison campus. Every Thursday through Saturday, our products have been and will be sold at Rennie’s Corner in the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. This past week we had our first sale in the West Atrium of Grainger Hall, which we are optimistic to sell at in the future. We’ve also fostered a new partnership with Slow-Food UW, a like-minded organization on campus at UW-Madison. We sell at their Family Dinner nights on the first Monday of each month. Check out our sales page for more information.
The leadership team is composed of a diverse group of individuals motivated to make a difference. Sophia Goldschmidt is the Social Media Coordinator and has been busy running our Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest pages - check them out! Back from last year is also Molly Rossiter, an Events Coordinator, who has partnered with newcomer, Ashley Summers. Molly and Ashley have been busy organizing our volunteer events staff and finding venues for us to sell our products. Another partner duo is the finance team led by Samantha Mortensen and Troy Howard. Our graphic designer, Erica Hess, artfully arranges all of our filers and other promotional material. Keeping the dialogue running with our artisan partners all over the world is Kealey Clemens. Hannah Keeser, the Wholesale Coordinator, is collaborating with Madison area businesses. Jen Wagman is serving as the Public Relations Coordinator and will be working in tandem with Sophia. Also, we have added Grayson Freking to our team as the Website Master.
For more fair trade fun and to stay up to date with Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace, follow our social media accounts or stop by one of our sales!
On Tuesday, several members of WWB-M presented posters on their work at the UW Global Health Symposium. It was a great opportunity to talk about WWB-M and to hear about other amazing global health projects at the UW. There was also a great smorgasbord of snacks- it was a win-win-win!
"In La Calera, I was able to better understand the important role that these artisans and their products play in making Ecuadorian culture so distinct. I learned that while weaving, embroidery and jewelry making are incredibly important to the Ecuadorian culture, they are even more important to the individuals who make the products because they are their means of income. This contrasted with my initial perceptions towards these types of crafts because I have more often encountered individuals who practice these arts as a hobby rather than a career. In opposition, “el tejido” is not just a hobby for Rafael; it is his and his family’s livelihood. In addition, the unique blankets, tapestries, jewelry and artwork that make the markets so exciting for tourists like me are incredibly important aspects of culture that indigenous Ecuadorians are trying to preserve. This combination of economic means and cultural distinction compounds the importance of the work that we are doing in La Calera. By helping to improve and further develop the micro-enterprises of these groups of women, we are also helping them improve their abilities to live sustainability and healthfully. We are also helping them to continue to preserve the cultural customs and art that make their indigenous communities so unique."
Author: Helena Wolf, Senior in Community & Nonprofit Leadership with a Certificate in Global Health