One of the things we most enjoy about being part of the World Fair Trade Organisation is connecting with other member groups, be it here in south India or around the world – it’s fantastic to see all the creative work being done by producers and a passionate commitment to fairness and empowerment in the workplace by the management.
Last week we had the pleasure of travelling three hours north of Bangalore to Anantapur in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh, to visit the Integrated Development Trust (IDT). We had met Silvia and Safia, lead staff members on the project, at the WFTO Asia workshop here in Bangalore last February and it was great to connect with them again in considerably more peaceful surroundings! IDT was set up under the umbrella of the Rural Development Trust (RDT), a large NGO with several campuses across Anantapur and the surrounding areas. Established by Vicente Ferrer, a Spaniard, in 1969 to offer “various need-based welfare and integrated programs of development to improve quality of life of rural poor especially marginalised and underprivileged sections”, RDT attracts many international volunteers and the campuses are bustling with Spanish people of all ages. We were so impressed to hear both Spanish volunteers speaking Telugu, the local language, and Indian staff members speaking Spanish!
IDT works with differently abled women to produce handicrafts in six main categories: textile crafts, fashion jewellery, jute crafts, recycled paper products, papier mache and eco-crafts using sustainable materials such as areca palm leaves. We were able to visit each of these producer groups in their calm, breezy workrooms and see the excellent quality of products as well as the camaraderie between the women and their team leaders, several of whom have been promoted from within the groups. It was also really valuable to sit with Silvia and Safia to fully understand the workings of the organisation, what they hope to achieve next and all the inventive steps they are taking to grow sustainably as a major handicrafts producer.
With around 200 women in their craft groups, IDT is considerably bigger than Jacobs Well but regardless of size there were so many invaluable points for us to connect on and share our experiences. We’re in the process of stepping up our inventory management here, and the IDT stock spreadsheets were a work of art – that alone has given us a high standard to aim for! Overall, it was just wonderful to share a day with such inspiring people who have a really strong commitment to fair trade and transforming the lives of underprivileged women. We hope to go back to their lovely peaceful campus again before too long!