Buying a statue or a handwoven cushion will not save the world. It will not stabilize socio-economical injustices, or promote world peace. But one thing it will do – is provide respectable employment and livelihoods for an entire village.
I’d like to introduce you to Dayu. Her full name is Ida Ayu Karyani. She is a native Balinese woman, whose life is a success story. Born in rural Bali, Dayu moved away as a teenager to find work. She found a job in the city as a seamstress. It was a small shop, the pay was low and the conditions were less than ideal. As the years passed, Dayu’s skills as a seamstress improved. She began interacting with customers, locals and tourists alike, producing whatever the demands happened to be. One day Dayu met a young Australian couple. She fulfilled several orders from them, displaying her budding talent. A friendship was soon formed and before long the friendship grew into a partnership. With the Australian’s help, Dayu was able to leave the position as an employee and step into the position of employer. She opened her very own shop.
Fast-forward to the present day and you will find Dayu running a fully functional boutique of hand-woven cushions, fabrics and made-to-order products. Her business has blossomed. She caters primarily to the increasing business from western importers, like Calgary’s Bali & Beyond. What’s more, Dayu proudly employs 10 people, as well as 20 people who work from their homes in her own village. She teaches them valuable skills, gives fair compensation, and provides a viable industry of support for her community.
“When there is an order, and there is work, I can hire the women of my village. They work from home, so they can still look after their children, and have an income,” says Dayu. As we walked in Dayu’s store, we were greeted with a big smile and a hug. We sat at her desk and talked about family and the latest ceremony taking place in her village. In the back of the shop I heard giggles echoing from the ladies working together on the latest order of cushions. It felt good to be there. And it feels good to see the effects of fair trade, and know that it is making a difference, even if it is to just one little village.
So we ask: what is the true value of a product? Does it really come down to price? To finding the best deal? Or perhaps we as western consumers will all learn to embrace and demand viable sourcing of our goods. We will demand fair trade and respectful economics from our products. We will ask whom it is affecting. Is it improving lives or exploiting them? Is it supporting community? Is it supporting the planet? These are the questions we’re asking. We hope you’ll do the same.
Purchasing one of Dayu’s cushions will not change the world, but for the people in her village, it certainly changes their world.