Your Fair Trade, organic cotton T-shirt attracts admiring looks wherever you go. Even better, you can be happy in the knowledge that the cotton it’s made from and the T-shirt producer is providing a stable income for whole communities, because it’s benefiting the most disadvantaged people in the cotton supply chain – the farmers and the labourers.
Assisi Garment is a non-profit program rehabilitation program that provides employment for women and men who are lepers, mute, deaf, blind, disabled; or poor women considered unfit for marriage by their families.
It is operated by Frascican Sisters in Tamil Nadu, India, and started in the year 1994 and the program’s primarily focuses on production of organic cotton knitted products like T-Shirts that are so soft and sophisticated to feel and fall in love with it.
The women and men in this program are provided a fair wage, food, training, housing; and a clean, safe and supportive working environment. Fair Trade brings a 50% increase in income to producers at Assisi compared to conventional garment worker levels, and they are paid a lump sum after five years of employment to start a home.
The T-shirt you buy, for example, might pass through the expert hands of Sonya, a tailor. The money Sonya saves from her wages allows her to provide for her family and save towards her dowry, without which, she would not have a hope of getting married. Thomas, Sonya’s colleague at Assisi, is a pattern master. He lives in the men’s dormitory with free rent and meals. This means he can save his wages for when he has a family to feed and educate.
Today, the program has 120 young women who are handicapped and/or economically disadvantaged, in addition to 60 men working alongside. The sisters’ latest beginning is the Cancer Institution that currently offers nursing courses.
Assisi has been an International Federation of Alternative Trade member since 1995 as their commitment to Fair Trade principles, and it is the first Soil Association certified organic manufacturer in the developing world. (Extracted and paraphased from Assisi Garments webpages)
At Agrocel, a Fairtrade cooperative in Gujurat, India, Chakuben and Laljibnai Narranbhai make natural pesticides and fertilisers for cotton from chilli, garlic, and even cow dung and urine. The fair price the couple receives for their work has brought new opportunities for their family.
‘I did not get any education but I want my children to. Because of the Fairtrade price, I can send them to school’ says Laljibnai. These natural pesticides are saving the co-operative money, protecting workers’ health and are kinder to the environment than conventional practices. Fairtrade standards encourage farmers to continually cut down on their use of pesticides and if possible, work towards full organic production on their farm. Other farmers in the Agrocel co-operative make their fields attractive to insect-eating birds in order to protect their crops.
The Narranbhais and the other members of the Agrocel co-operative rely heavily on cotton for their income. They receive 37% more for their Fairtrade certified cotton than they would have earned on the conventional market. This additional money, along with the Fairtrade premium, has allowed them to invest in their farms and the future of their communities.
After the cotton leaves the Agrocel farmers, it goes to be spun into yarn to make Fairtrade cotton clothing. Some cotton will go to factories that supply supermarkets and high street shops, while other cotton will be made into clothes sold by fair trade organisations. These are companies that take Fairtrade beyond the cotton farming stage covered by the Fairtrade standards, and apply the Fairtrade principles of supporting producers, investing in communities and decent working conditions to the people making the finished products. (Extracted and paraphased from Fairtrade Foundation webpage)
This information was last updated on 12 January, 2009.