Safeguarding the lifestyle of marginalized artisans by delivering products which embolden their individual and cultural identities
In 2008, Meera Viswanathan decided to make a change in her life and in the lives of others. After seven years as a CPA, she went back to her roots to empower women artisans in her home country of India.
Fond of handmade clothing and accessories, Meera would often purchase products the local artisans would create. When she moved to the United States, she brought these items with her and discovered that people were drawn to the unique handbags, purses, and clothes she would wear. “After living in the US for at least 20 years, I got used to the stuff here; that’s what really made me appreciate the art and talent in India,” Meera says.
She and her family would visit India every year. Instead of going to the urban areas, one year they visited the rural parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat and met several women artisans. In conversations with them, she learned that they loved to make their art but didn’t have many outlets to sell them. They wanted to support their families and make ends meet, but lack of access to markets hindered their financial success. Inspired to take action, Meera researched the fairtrade model and realized that she had found the change she wanted in her life.
What makes Mira Fair Trade different is that it is built on more than simply good intentions, but the proven capability to facilitate empowerment. “We let the artisans give us input on what they are able to work with, so they are very involved with the designs,” Meera says. There are no more than 30 families involved so that Mira Fair Trade can adequately compensate their artisans.
In the beginning, Meera wanted to work with only women artisans. However, to appreciate Indian cultural standards, she now includes products with metal that are created by men, such as belts. Additionally, Mira Fair Trade products are made with only local materials and a majority of these products are made with recycled materials.
“I haven’t heard anything but good things [from the artisans],” Meera says. “These women are paid, and more importantly, they are treated with respect. They can support their families and send their kids to school.” To Meera, this is the most important part – she is able to use her business as a platform for empowerment for these families.