Fair Trade Makes Every Day Women’s Day

Celebrating first rug

Artisans go to the local sweet market and grab their favorite mithai (sweets), maybe hot gulab jamun soaking up the sugary sweet cardamon syrup or to the local jalebi vendor who is busy lifting hot, orange mini funnel-cake-like rounds out of their copper pot of bubbling oil as the jalebi head to their own bath of heavenly syrup.

One woman carries a carafe of chai made with her water buffalo’s milk. Another grabs more tea cups from her home. It’s time to celebrate.

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Juggling Family, Household and Work

Bunyaad artisans Arshad, Mustaq and family

Let Me Introduce: Arshad

Arshad, usually called by her nickname Bebe, and her family live in the village of Darianwala located approximately six miles from the Indian border in Northeast Pakistan.

Arshad and her husband Mustaq have been working for Bunyaad for the past five years (since 2009). Prior to joining Bunyaad the family had been drifting from place to place in hopes of finding work that would support the entire family. As a woman working outside the home would not have been acceptable for Arshad and so the challenge of providing for the entire family rested on Mustaq’s shoulders.

How does a family in rural Pakistan make ends meet when jobs are scarce and mostly seasonal?

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Hot Steaming Water Buffalo Milk served by Fauzia

Fauzia steams milkWhen you come to any of our rug rooms and during all of our rug events across the US and Canada you get a glimpse into the world of rug making and see the artisans at work in the video “Introduction to Oriental Rugs” that is shown throughout the day. As staff I have watched this video hundreds of times. My work in the Bunyaad office also involves working with lots and lots of artisan photos. So when visiting Pakistan this year it felt almost surreal meeting these same artisans for the first time and yet feeling like I have known them for a long time.

It is with great pleasure that I get to introduce two of these young women to you who have both been rug knotters with Bunyaad for the past eight years. Fauzia and Sofia live with their parents in the small village of Halwan about two hours north of Lahore. After finishing their schooling, they both started knotting rugs as this allowed them a good income and the ability to stay home with their parents.

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Fair Trade Rugs: Creating a More Just World

Artisan Rafia with daughter at loom

I sit 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. She holds her nearly 8 month old little girl, letting her grab at the taut warp threads as she takes a break from her work. Rafia chuckles as I have to run and change my son’s diaper, tossing him down on her charpai, a rope bed, in the middle of her home and asking if she minds if I change him there. It’s my son’s first trip to the villages of Pakistan and at age 2, he’s taking it all in, including the chicken running into the house from the outside courtyard.

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