Conscious Consumerism in Action: Empowerment in India
An Interview with Community Friendly Movement
We are proudly partnered with Community Friendly Movement (CFM) and are amazed at the incredible impact they are making in India, one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Through Fair Trade they are keeping traditional crafts alive and providing beautiful products, while providing better lives for the artisans, their families, and communities.
By making positive decisions about what we buy, we are adding to the solutions for inequality and poverty for these inspiring people. We interviewed Manasi Adya to learn more and warmly received an invitation for our conscious globetrotters to visit!
How did CFM begin?
Community Friendly Movement, CFM, was conceived as a philanthropic project with the aim of providing employment opportunities and improving the lives of skilled artisans by sparking innovation within the traditional skill sets of the handcrafting communities in India.
In 2009, CFM, originally a not-for-profit enterprise needed to change its status to a Private Limited Company due to the government’s restrictions on the commercial transaction for NGOs (non-government organizations.) During that first year, we export handicraft goods worth $100,000. A year later, CFM increased this by three times and added more handcraft communities with a total of 650 active artisan members in such areas as block printing, bone and wood carving, glass bead making, embroidery, quilting, and more.
What would you like people to know about Fair Trade products?
We would like people to understand that by purchasing Fair Trade products we are one step closer to global ethical consumption. Every Fair Trade purchase supports responsible production, as it is helping producers in developing countries, such as India, achieve better living conditions through the distribution of wealth and by promoting sustainable development.
At CFM, a Fair Trade organization, our aim is to develop and market products made by artisan communities in India, which will result in an overall improvement in their lives & their children.
While doing the above, we ensure that the artisans receive fair wages and are working in good working conditions. For example, we have installed lights and basic sanitation facilities for communities. We are very transparent in our dealings and maintain good and frequent communication with both our artisan suppliers as well as international buyers. We give an advance to the suppliers so that they can procure raw materials for production without difficulty. We are also fair and do not have any bias when employing staff or artisans based on caste, creed, sex, religion etc. In fact, we promote women artisans. These aspects are all important to achieve our goals of helping create sustainable livelihoods for the marginalized.
How have your artisans benefited from Fair Trade?
Fair Trade has ensured that artisans are not exploited, they are well rewarded for the effort they put in, and they have healthy and safe working conditions.
With an increased demand for Fair Trade handmade products, we have seen a visible impact in the artisans we work with - women are better dressed, happier, and excited. They are not totally economically dependent on their husbands and in many cases financially support their husbands, who otherwise can be a prey to loan sharks.
What community impact has CFM made?
Since its inception, CFM has helped more than 10 handcraft communities to become commercially viable by helping them create a manufacturing base, assisting in discovering new markets, and aiding with design and product development.
Although many of the artisans who are part of CFM come with traditional skill sets, the organization helps members design products that appeal to contemporary consumer tastes in their specified markets. In some cases, CFM was able to create high demand for products and needed more artisans to help out. In these circumstances, women were trained on the job in self-help group settings so that the community could increase its production capacity.
This link to the international markets has helped generate employment and has created opportunities for people who are willing to work but often do not get opportunities in the fast consumerism world, which invests a huge amount of capital in machines and automation, and very little on human development. This extra income stream helps them to put their children to school and provide them with better nourishment, which is a stepping stone for building educated productive human resources for the future.
What is one thing you want people to know about CFM?
CFM’s primary aim is to help create sustainable livelihoods for the marginalized, with a special emphasis on women empowerment. It aims to fulfill this objective by focusing on the following - unique, innovative designs, high quality & standardized products, on-time delivery and skill development.
Mostly the artisans have traditional skills. Our intervention comes in molding that skill to make contemporary products, which appeal to the tastes of the consumers in our selected markets.
CFM strongly believes in a zero rejection policy and on time delivery. To maintain quality and delivery, we have created an Artisan Welfare Fund which finances inputs to provide good and comfortable working conditions and provides bonuses for the right effort. We also are flexible and allow women artisans to work from their home so that they can attend to their children and look after other home duties.
What is unique about your crafts and artisans?
CFM focuses on producing fashionable, contemporary products which marketable. Thus the work is highly design-oriented and we work a lot on customizing products depending on the buyer. Our artisans are highly skilled and are always up to a challenge to learn and innovate.
Why should people who love traveling be especially interested in CFM?
CFM is a very transparent organization and we believe in sharing our knowledge and educating people on the impact we have made on our artisan communities. All the cottage industries are open at any point in time for visitors to see the artisan communities at work, as well as for product development.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
CFM is a big believer in creating a working environment that provides incentives to maintain quality and on time delivery. CFM created an Artisan Welfare Fund, which provides a number of services to its artisan member including a nursery, after-school programs for their children, and financial bonuses. Currently, the company is exploring extending health insurance and microfinance programs to their communities who work with them.
We welcome to browse their handmade jewelry here.