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Meet the Artisan: Haptamu, Master Weaver at Sabahar

Meet the Artisan: Haptamu, Master Weaver at Sabahar Sabahar is a fair trade company based in Ethiopia producing handmade cotton and silk textiles. All their products are handmade in Ethiopia using natural fibers and they are the only company making products with Ethiopian silk.     Sabahar was founded in 2004 by Kathy Marshall, a Canadian native and twenty-year veteran of Ethiopia, whose goal was to preserve the cultural weaving traditions of Ethiopia while providing fair employment opportunities for marginalized people. Sabahar focuses on supporting and training their artisans in applying traditional techniques to produce new fibers and modern designs. As a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, Sabahar is dedicated to improving the lives of their artisans with...

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Cultural Appropriation or Appreciation?

  Recently the controversy of Cultural Appropriation has come back into headlines in regards to the heralded Victoria Secret’s annual fashion show and designer Arpana Rayamajhi’s jewelry for using Nepalese beading, worn by the models during a segment of the show. Cultural Appropriation is a hard topic to define and address for any organization. However, Victoria's Secret is not a stranger to this type of controversy. At the company’s annual fashion show in 2012, a model wore a sacred Native American headdress, offending many as this was viewed as mockery and ignorance towards the Native American culture. Victoria Secret Show 2012 - Native American controversial headdress                                    ...

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Healing Power of Crafts in Times of War

The recent atrocities in Aleppo are destroying every shred of the city and its culture leading to the extinction of several of their crafts including the ancient traditional Syrian Mosaic Inlay art form which is only indigenous to Damascus. Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Syrian Mosaic Inlay tradition was started by a Damascene named Girgis Bitar in 1860, who was a professional cabinetmaker trained in the Damascus school of wood, ivory and mother of pearl marquetry. Even then Syria was amidst a civil war, irrespective of the conditions Bitar created a new art form, the Syrian wood and mother-of-pearl mosaic. Bitar unified marquetry which is the art of applying pieces of veneer to a...

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Enterprising Artisan Nuns Bring Hope to Human Trafficking Survivors

Around the globe, there are millions of victims of Human Trafficking, the practice of smuggling people across borders who are subsequently exploited as domestic workers, slave laborers and sex workers. Today, on, Human Rights day, we would like to tell you the uplifting story of the partnership between White Field Farm, a social enterprise and the HOPE Project, a non-profit working tirelessly to assist victims of human trafficking in the greater New York area. Several months ago one of our Shokunin team members visited All Saints Greek Orthodox Monastery out in eastern Long Island, where they discovered the monastery’s White Field Farm’s (WFF) social enterprise, founded by the nuns in 2012. WWF handcrafts natural body products and soy wax candles using high...

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“Jobs do not translate into empowerment” says Kalpona Akter, former child laborer and human rights activist

Kalopna Akter, the founder and executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, worked in a garment factory since she was a child. Despite her incredibly hard life, there is a passion, confidence and determination that radiates from within her and she embodies the aspirations of millions of garment workers around the globe who want a life of dignity and opportunity. In April 2013, the preventable collapse of the Rana plaza, building, located in the congested Savar suburb of Dhaka, killed over 1,100 garment factory workers and injured thousands more. Below is a photo of Kalpona (left) with Rana Plaza survivor Sumi Abedin (right) who jumped from the third story to avoid being burnt alive inside the collapsing building. Sumi...

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