Fair-Trade Principles – Principle Three

Fair Trade is becoming a popular concept, but unless explored and seen in practice, it’s a hard concept to understand in depth. Seven Women supports and applies the principles of Fair Trade in the grass roots development project we have created. Seven Women trades with concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalised small producers and does not maximize profit at their expense. It is responsible and professional in meeting its commitments in a timely manner. Suppliers respect contracts and deliver products on time and to the desired quality and specifications.

100% of the profit raised from sales of the products in Australia has been sent back to further develop the project in Nepal since the centre's inception in 2009. The women were paid a wage for the first year while their quality and skills developed and enabled them to produce well made items through trial and error. They now get paid on a piece by piece basis by the founder of Seven Women who orders different quantities of different products at set times in the year. This allows for planning.

Fair Trade buyers, recognizing the financial disadvantages producers and suppliers face, ensure orders are paid on receipt of documents and according to the attached guidelines. An interest free pre-payment of at least 50% is made if requested. Where southern Fair Trade suppliers receive a pre-payment from buyers, they ensure that this payment is passed on to the producers or farmers who make or grow their Fair Trade products.

Buyers consult with suppliers before cancelling or rejecting orders. Where orders are cancelled through no fault of producers or suppliers, adequate compensation is guaranteed for work already done. Suppliers and producers consult with buyers if there is a problem with delivery, and ensure compensation is provided when delivered quantities and qualities do not match those invoiced.

Because the prime purpose of the project is to train and employ marginalised women, even in the initial stages when the order was not completed properly, we still took what was made. Main sales and hence income has been through markets around Victoria, so when delivered quantities and qualities do not match those invoiced, it is not too big an issue. We have had time and ability to be flexible as the women we work with and train have had to learn from scratch about quality, handmade goods and different business basics. The whole process, and indeed product quality, has improved over time and we are now selling through commercial channels. We avoid as much of this inconsistency as possible, reducing risk by holding stock in the main product lines. Also, we have linked up the women at the skills training centre with other retail avenues in Nepal where they are now selling their goods and receiving orders.

The organization maintains long term relationships based on solidarity, trust and mutual respect that contribute to the promotion and growth of Fair Trade. It maintains effective communication with its trading partners. Parties involved in a trading relationship seek to increase the volume of the trade between them and the value and diversity of their product offer as a means of growing Fair Trade for the producers in order to increase their incomes. The organization works cooperatively with the other Fair Trade Organizations in country and avoids unfair competition. It avoids duplicating the designs of patterns of other organizations without permission.

We have a policy around copying others’ products. We do not engage in this, despite the environment and Nepalese market which very often operates this way. The founder of Seven Women, Steph Woollard, has attempted to be original as possible with product designs, by designing what was both basic and realistic for the women's skill set level at any given time in the last four years (which has improved dramatically). The designs are also largely dictated by what Steph thinks the Australian market will find attractive and appealing, and therefore want to buy.

We have done a lot of collaborating in Nepal with other well established fair trade organisations and also other businesses who have wanted to buy ethical goods to sell in their local sales channels. Some of these are listed below:

Looking Forward: has provided us with soap and candle making training as well as knitting training. They have donated a cupboard to hold out raw materials early on in the project.

Association of Craft Producers Nepal: (Nepal’s largest fair trade organisation) has employed the women to fulfil some of the export orders in knitting. They have also provided knitting training for a select few women at the centre (22 women). (For more information see http://www.acp.org.np/)

Sabah Nepal: has provided training in felt craft for the women, as well as memberships which means the women will receive work from this organisation on a regular basis. This has hugely positive implications because it means they are no longer reliant on Australian market demands and have many options for employment once they have received skills training. (For more information see http://www.sabahnp.org/)

Fair Trade recognizes, promotes and protects the cultural identity and traditional skills of small producers as reflected in their craft designs, food products and other related services.

The women produce garments in their traditional fabrics for the local market, as well as doing embroidery on saris. We have identified through trial and error and experience in the market that traditional patterns are not good sellers in Australia; however, felt making is a traditional skill which is one of the main products the women make.

Principle Four: Payment of a Fair Price, will feature in our next post.

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Byron - Seven Women, Melbourne