Fair Trade Forum-India organised its XV Annual National Convention on 19th to 20th September 2015 and Annual General Meeting on 21st September 2015 at Regenta Resort, Bhuj, Gujarat. The theme of the convention was ‘Skilling India for Building Fair Trade World’. More than 60 participants attended the convention that included representatives from FTF-I member organisation, representatives from the civil society, local artisans, musicians and local print and electronic media.
The aim of the convention was to discuss on Fair Trade approach to skill development in India and how various Fair Trade organisations can play an important role in partnering with Government to achieve the Skill India Mission of GOI. Today GOI is facing the challenge of paucity of highly trained workforce, as well as non-employability of large sections of the conventionally educated youth, who possess little or no job skills. Looking at the challenges, Fair Trade networks and Fair Trade Organisations (FTOs) can play an important role in making skill India mission successful and effective. FTOs can help GOI to provide skills with Fair Trade perspective.
The convention was inaugurated by lighting the lamp in the evening on 19th September 2015 by Mr. Vinod Chavda, Member of Parliament, Kachch Constituency who was the Chief Guest, the legendary 92 year youngest Sh. Kanti Kaka (Sh. Kanti Sen Shroff), who was the Guest of Honour, along with Dr. K. Panchaksharam, Founder-President of FTF-I, Mr. Sudhir Gullaiya, Executive Director, TRIFED and Dr. Ismail Khatri, Shilp Guru, Gaffur Bhai, National Awardee Master Rogan Artist and Rani Ben, National Awardee, Master Embroider.
Mr. Ranvir Sisodia from Dharohar, Master of Ceremony welcomed the gathering. Dr. K. Panchaksharam was invited to share about the special anniversary celebration of FTF-I on completing its 15 years journey. He explained about the genesis of the network and the people who have contributed to build this network and create impact in the lives of people through Fair Trade.
School children and teachers from a local school in Bhuj were invited to present a cultural program in which a prayer dance and a group song were performed.
The local artisans from Kutch also displayed their handicraft and textile work in a small exhibition organised at the venue.
On this occasion, a special 15 years journey report of FTF-I was launched, the book highlights the impact generated through Fair Trade in India along with the efforts of FTF-I and Fair Trade organisations. The publication showcases the formation of the network, the early pangs of making a place in the social sector as a tool for poverty eradication and holistic development. It highlights the initiatives challenges and activities and brings out the best practices and achievements of Fair Trade organisations across India.
The publication also pays tribute to the Fair Trade soldiers who devoted their lives to work for the development of the society on the principles of Fair Trade.
Mr. John Samuel, an internationally respected civil society leader, public policy researcher, social entrepreneur and writer delivered the Prof. Shyam S. Sharmaji’s Memorial Lecture on ‘Fair-Trade as means for Sustainable Development in India’. He discussed on increasing social and economic inequality, issues of skill-gap, digital divide and also strategic ways to build and link local-national-and global economy through democratisation of economy, knowledge, technology and trade.
He emphasised on the need of going back to the roots and implementing ‘Hind Swaraj’, the vision of Gandhi ji to empower India by empowering the villages. He said that the GOI, in order to achieve its Skill India Mission should focus on building skills of the youth in the villages itself. Fair Trade can play an important role by encouraging capacity building and skill building based on the local need of the communities. Use the best resources and talents from the village and provide skills in it. In conclusion he encouraged the Fair Trade fraternity to have a vision for India to “Make India in Villages, Make India Fair”.
The inaugural program was concluded with local dance and musical performance and networking dinner.
The Keynote presentation on the theme- ‘Exploring the possibilities of Skill Development in Craft & Textile Sector/ Opportunities for Fair Trade Organisation’ was jointly done by – Shri D.K. Sharma (IFS), MD, Gurjari, Mr. T. Muralidharan, Vrutti Livelihoods & Mentor, Mr. Sudhir Gullaiya, ED, TRIFED. Dr. Manjula Jagatramka from Vaitarna was also invited to speak on ‘Opportunities for CSR in Handlooms and Handicrafts’. The session was chaired by Mr. Mallikarjuna Iytha, President, FTF-I.
Presentations on Digitalisation of FAIR TRADE INDIA brand and ‘Skill Building of Producers & Fair Trade Organisations Alignment’ were given by experts. The session was chaired by Mr. Pradeep Krishnappa, Vice President, FTF-I. He introduced the speakers for the session who presented on the new way forward for FAIR TRADE INDIA brand.
Mr. Surendra Shahi, Head of User Support Team-Open Entry gave a presentation on creating FAIR TRADE INDIA marketplace for listing and promoting FTF-I member websites and products. It can be either a B2B or B2C e-commerce platform. He suggested possible partnership of FTF-I with Open Entry to provide this service to all interested FTF-I members.
Ms. Jessica Oyarbide, Communication Strategist from Argentina presented on Branding Fair Trade ‘Skill Building of Producers & Fair Trade Organisations Alignment’. She shared her personal experience when creating brands with producers and entrepreneurs at the Base of the Pyramid, with the aim of improving their business and the recognition of their roles as entrepreneurs. She also pointed out the necessity of Fair Trade Organisations to be aligned under Fair Trade India brand with the objective of keep building the network and increasing consumer awareness.
Ms. Bagisha Suman, PhD Scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi one of the first person to do a PhD in Fair Trade, presented about the role of Fair Trade in uniting the people and reviving and redirecting their skills. She shared through her own field visits with different FTOs in Kerala, Telangana and Bihar. The one common non-monetary benefit of Fair Trade which is clearly noticeable is the feeling of solidarity and the sense of trust generated with producing communities, living in the remotest parts of India, where most of the people are not educated or well connected with development and infrastructure.
Group discussions were also held on different topics followed by a session of “Mann ki Baat, Fairness ke Saath”, where member organisations were invited to share about their Fair Trade journey experience and their engagement with FTF-I in last 15 years. The invitees were Ms. Irani Sen, CRC Exports, Ms. Chinni Swamy, Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti, Mr. Devendra Dhariwal, SETU-the bridge to artisans, Mr. V. Showriappa, Bethany Colony Leprosy Association and Mr. Samuel Masih, Noah’s Ark International Exports. The session was chaired by Mr. Mallikarjuna Iytha, President.
Mr. Devendra Dhariwal shared how SETU handles the monitoring of the growth of their organisation and the artisans as per the ten principles of Fair Trade. SETU has devised a set of guidelines which focus on- Fair Wages, Safe Workplace, Good Health Facilities, Ideal Working Hours, No Child labour, Education, No Gender Bias, Preserving the culture & traditional skills of the artisans, Environmental friendly process, Self sustainability, Social upliftment, Capacity increase in last 3 yrs, Product sustainability and Nature of Organisation. For each guiding point they have mentioned the indicators. He gave an example by explaining a matrix which presented the growth of SETU calculated under each of the guiding points. For each set of guidelines, there is a rating system upto four. A group must secure min 50 points (including bonus points). This system has been effective in measuring the overall growth of the organisation and coming out with practical solutions wherever necessary. SETU has been implementing this system since 2012.
The last session of the day was the business session related to the matters of the AGM to be taken up by the Executive Council. The event was concluded in the evening by Mr. Mallikarjuna. He proposed the vote of thanks to all the resource persons for their time and knowledge sharing, and the members for their active participation in the national convention.
Overall it was a successful event and everyone enjoyed a good sharing time with their fellow Fair Traders. Of course, to top it all was the unique experience of Kutch and its own beauty.