By: Jane Marcuse and Jenni Leister
When Dix Mille Village in the village of Pointe Claire hosts their Annual Fair Trade Rug Event, they aren’t just promoting one-of-a-kind, hand knotted carpets crafted by fairly paid adult hands. They are making a connection between women in Pakistan and Canadian consumers, a connection that changes lives.
The rugs are from a fair trade company known as Bunyaad, which is Urdu for Foundation. As a long-time artisan partner of Dix Mille Villages in both the US and Canada, Bunyaad works with over 850 artisans in over 100 villages in Pakistan. I speak for all the volunteers of Dix Mille Villages when I say, “every year our volunteers and customers learn more about the artisans behind the rugs.” In the past 20 years, we are always touched by how many lives our community has touched, just through something as simple as purchasing floor coverings through fair trade.
Each year we host an Intro to Oriental Rugs evening where we hear stories from the loom. One year, Bunyaad rug representative Jenni Leister shared this story of her most recent trip in Pakistan. As we sat on the piles of rugs placed throughout the store, Jenni began…”I sat beside Rafia Nasir on the loom where she works on a 6×9 Persian rug with her two sisters.
Rafia is a new mom, just like I am. Rafia tells me that she was only able to work part-time, especially after her little girl arrived, but recently her husband lost his job at the wood mill due to extreme power outages and they moved back to their family home in the village of Fateh Toor More, a remote village very close to the Kashmir border. Now, her husband takes care of their daughter while Rafia works on the loom full-time.
Months later, her rug arrives from Pakistan and is ready to be sold to a North American customer. Jenni shows it in the pile many times, telling the volunteers and customers about the rug, about Rafia and about how fair trade works. And yet, Jenni has to step back and wonder; “was I able to transport my customer to Rafia’s side, so that they can really understand the difference that fair trade makes?”
Do you know that because she is able to make this rug on a loom inside her village home, Rafia has enough for her family to eat three proper meals a day, to plan for the future and to send her daughter to the nearby village school. Because Bunyaad will purchase her next rug, that she and her sisters will produce together, she can have complete artistic freedom.
It sounds so very simple and quite honestly, it is. Making a conscious effort to purchase fairly traded items is making a conscious decision that you want your economic dollar to work for change, to work for stability, and to work for peace.”
A special thank you to the West Island community for voting for this type of change.
Jane Marcuse has been a volunteer at Dix Mille Villages for 17 years.
Jenni Leister is a representative of Bunyaad and works and lives in Pennsylvania.