Namaste: A fair trade shop in Delhi, India
WELTLADEN: Please describe your fair trade shop.
Mathew K. K.: MESH (Maximising Employment to Serve the Handicapped) opened a small fair trade shop in 1981 here in Delhi. Presently, there are around 2000 products available for the customers to choose from. We sell only Non-Food-Products under various categories including jewellery, home furnishings and bags. Among these products the best seller is Kids Toys.
WELTLADEN: Who is making your products?
Mathew K. K.: All our products are made by people with leprosy and people who are differently abled. Actually we work with around 1000 artisans who make beautiful handcrafted products under fair working conditions. Leprosy is a huge stigma. It is hard for such people to be part of society and to find a job that make ends meet. They usually live in a village or in a particular area and people are not willing to work with them. So the biggest challenge is that they cannot sell their products or even market them. We are trying to fill that gap. Our organization provides trainings, networking through meetings, job opportunities and does the marketing and sales. Through these measures, we are happy to see that the approach of the society towards such people has changed eventually and these people suffer less from their stigma.
WELTLADEN: Which customers come to your shop?
Mathew K. K.: Men and women aged between 35-50 years are coming to our shop. Our loyal customers come, if they need some particular things. Sometimes they are looking for a scarf or a bag. Mainly mothers with their kids come to the shop because we have a lot of toys. Our toys are special. They are not available in the market and the quality is also very good. We test our toys beforehand to ensure it´s safe for children to play with them as well. We hardly get walk-in customers here. Because this is not one’s typical market. Nowadays the young people go to malls and shopping centres on a sunday where they can get everything.
WELTLADEN: How do you raise awareness for fair trade and how do you promote the shop?
Mathew K. K.: We believe that children and youngsters have a good role to play. We feed the idea of fair trade in the mindset of children. When they see and feel the difference with how it is benefiting the artisans, they are convinced and influence their parents. The parents get motivated too. They might go to a fair trade shop and do their next shopping there. That´s why we target private schools and colleges. We have our own social worker - Mister Gabriel who does presentations and conducts interactive talks with the young people about fair trade. Another way to address people is through social media. We provide information through our instagram, facebook and twitter-account. We e-mail our customers by advertising new products. Also, we conduct exhibitions every year.
Interviewed by Katja Voss (Freelancer for the Weltladen-Dachverband in Germany).
Mathew K.K. is the Chief Manager at the Fair trade organisation MESH and is the head of the fair trade shop in India’s capital New Delhi. The majority of their products are exported to Overseas. The German fair trade organisations El Puente, WeltPartner and CONTIGO sell these products in the German market.
MESH DURING THE CORONA-CRISIS
In India there was a lockdown for weeks. People had to stay back home and shops were closed. The day-to-day life came to a halt. MESH had to shut down the fair trade shop and suspend all works. MESH couldn’t pay their artisans in time. As a result, many artisans depended on the food supplies and essentials given by the government. Some of the artisans took home their sewing machines and could use their stitching skills to make cotton masks. They started helping the public in these bad times and were also able to generate some income. “In the end we won´t fight against the virus, we´ll fight for our living” says Jacky Bonney from MESH. Despite all these efforts, many families are not able to meet their daily basic needs.
This text was written in Mai 2020.