Ever since the emergence of capitalism in the world order, most businesses became all about profit maximization, sometimes overlooking the expenses it might have on their employees. Luckily, we found the organization that is initially based on balancing both.
Established in the 1990s, Fair Trade Organization started as an initiative to develop and empower the artisans’ communities across Egypt and provide them with equal trade opportunities. In 2007, they were the first to receive the World Fair Trade Organization membership after they showed commitment to their principles of fair trade, supporting disadvantaged communities, humane treatment, transparent pricing, and more.
When they realized the hardships, especially the medical issues that artisans go through, without having any kind of medical insurances or social security, the organization launched developmental programs such as literacy programs, health and Virus C awareness campaigns, and even medical interventions.
Their latest series of medical interventions started in about 2013 with Maghrabi Optics, covering up to 700-800 artisans in Aswan, Sohag, Ard El Lewa and El Gamaleya. The series was not just check-ups, but a full intervention program covering surgery, eye-glasses or treatment expenses.
“We picked the sight issues in specific because it is extremely crucial to the artisans, and they cannot really work without it,” says Karem El Masry, Fair Trade’s Development Coordinator.
Karem explains that the artisans are prone to some medical issues based on their work environment. For instance, they work under a specific lighting for an uncontrolled number of hours. They are also required to work with specific crafts that demand more concentration from the eye. Besides some hygiene issues relevant to the production process.
“We had to make sure of the efficiency of the medical convoy because we wanted to provide complete solutions. We wanted to fix the problems, and just point them out,” Karem adds.
Accordingly, the medical convoys were accessible to the citizens of all the chosen districts, as both precautionary measures and treatments. The convoys also worked in the favor of the artisans indirectly as they helped change the community’s perception of crafting as a low leveled job, and hence encourage more people to practice it.
People’s perception is not the only obstacle facing the organization, access to human resources was yet another issue. Karem distinguishes between two types of talents, natural and acquired talents. The problem occurs when both of them lack commitment and dedication to the production. This, according to Karem, directed the sector into a specific age range of mostly women above 60, and hence highly dependent on women especially because it’s easier to work from home.
Karem also explains that the challenges facing the organization today are more relevant to the production cycle, unlike the past when they needed to change people’s mindset on handmade projects versus the competitive manufactured products.
“We started making people understand that the handmade products are part of our history and identity. We needed to change the culture. Back then, it was the only business model designed based on that, adds Karem.
Fair Trade currently works with up to 2000 artisans, 91% of which are women. They resorted to Social Media to deliver their products to the consumers’ doors. Checkout their outstanding products on their Facebook Page: @fairtrade Egypt or their Instagram account @fairtradeegypt.