Fairtrade fortnight holds a special place in our hearts here at Zulucow. We pride ourselves on sourcing ethically sourced products and creating sustainable jobs; teaching Zulu women new skills for life and helping them to survive and put food on the table.
In the UK fairtrade fortnight highlights the importance of shopping smart and ethically, values that we take very seriously not only within the business but also in our own personal lives.
But what is fairtrade? According to the official fairtrade website, ‘Fairtrade is a system of certification that aims to ensure a set of standards are met in the production and supply of a product or ingredient. For farmers and workers, Fairtrade means workers’ rights, safer working conditions and fairer pay. For shoppers, it means high quality, ethically produced products.’
And how do we uphold our promise to be fairtrade? Here are 3 facts for you:
Creating sustainable jobs
When you purchase one of our Zulucow products, you are helping to create sustainable jobs where it’s most needed in rural KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. In a country where the unemployment rate is astonishingly over 50 per cent, we work with a team of artisans who rely heavily on this income to put food on the table. Fairtrade means that we not only support the team but we also pay them a fair wage.
Trade not Aid – Creating Skills development
By purchasing Zulcuow’s products you are encouraging skills development. All the ladies, (and men) are taught how to cut leather, sew and make Zulucow’s gorgeous cushions, bags and accessories.
I always remember talking to Gloria about what her job meant to her. She broke down in tears; she said she would always thank her mother for teaching her how to sew because she gave her the skills to get a job and support herself. Without skills, it is difficult to get a job and without a job how do you put food on the table. (Gloria a single parent supports her daughter and has given her the skills too)
The women are wise and desperate to hand down their skills to their children. They also value their incomes hugely as a means to educate their children. They are very aware that education is key to their children surviving in such a ‘raw’ country.
You are giving hope, a future, an ability to plan a life in a desperately poor, ravaged country
You are not only giving a fair income to the artisans in Zulucow’s team, but you are also helping them to plan for a better life. Lindiwe and Sizwe were able to build their house, from the incomes they got from the workshop. Gcinile a single mother of 6 set aside money for a solar system and Bheki built his own 2 bedroom home; and plans to one day build a 6 bedroom house with electricity and running water.
I regularly visit the team (travel limits permitting) and I know they work in a clean and healthy work space. They are comfortable and happy and are always welcome to bring their children to work with them.
In terms of the products, nothing at all goes to waste. All of the cowhide is used and is a by-product of the meat industry so we are not only fairtrade we are also ethically responsible and sustainably made. You can find out more about how Zulucow helps to create sustainable jobs and ethically sourced products in another blog post here.
Likeminded fairtrade businesses
I’d love to also give a shout out to a few other fairtrade brands who share the same values as us. In a world of fast fashion and unethical conditions, it’s so important to stick together and support one another in order to build a better future for people around the world. Here are a few of my favourite fairtrade brands:
The Basket Room -working with small weaving groups across Africa to bring you ethical and stylish accessories with a transparent story.
The Basket Room’s missions statement is: ‘We work as closely as we can with these communities to work towards our business meeting fair trade principles. aim to maintain long lasting partnerships with them. We continue to develop our commitment to these groups as we continue to grow with them’
Nkuku doesn’t just have beautiful pieces but they also align with our values and their mission is ‘ We are on a journey to lead the way with ethical homewares, considering our environmental impact by using eco-friendly materials, valuing, and sustaining handmade traditional skills through fair and transparent relationships with our suppliers, whilst working towards mutual success.
We believe that trading fairly provides an opportunity to build a future. It helps businesses develop and creates sustainable employment. We work with natural and recycled materials with a focus on sustainable methods of production, and this shapes our collections’
Last but not least we have a fan favourite; Toms Shoes. They partner with community organisations to drive sustainable change and are in business to improve life which I think is a great mission to support.
We are so proud to be a fairtrade business and I hope that during Fairtrade Fortnight you have the opportunity to learn about what fairtrade means to the world. Here at Zulucow we will always support our artisan team and give back to them not only with fair wages but with our care and commitment to them.
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