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November 19, 2013

Area event fixes focus on fair trade

By Joe Mahoney Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Two Oneonta women who share an interest in fairness for workers in developing countries are teaming up this week in preparing for the Fair Trade Fiesta Sales Event.

Katherine O’Donnell, a Hartwick College sociology professor, and Maryann Stow, an artist, are the prime organizers behind the event, which will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Green Earth Community Room in Oneonta.

“The primary goal is to raise funds for our non-profit foundations and our non-profit artisans” involved in the fair trade movement, O’Donnell said Monday.

They are hoping the event will attract legions of shoppers searching for unique holiday gifts — and will go home with a sense of satisfaction from helping artisans who have taken the first step away from being exploited at the workplace.

The movement has been gaining tremendous traction, though the United States market lags Europe, where people tend to be better informed about issues related to economic justice and the need for fair labor practices, O’Donnell said.

On sale at the Green Earth will be items from India, Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala and Tibet. The offerings will include woven textiles, batiked and dyed silk scarves, clothing for 18-inch dolls, purses, home goods, embroidery art, wall hangings, jewelry, ornaments and baskets.

Also featured will be food products already stocked by the Green Earth: fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate. The store is donating the space for the event.

O’Donnell’s connection to the fair trade movement dates back 15 years. She has been a strong promoter of the Mayan women’s weaving cooperative, Jolom Mayaetik, based in Chiapas, Mexico.

Stow, a student of anthropology, has developed strong ties to the people of Guatemala. Many of her paintings, collages and drawings depict the fragile social fabric in that impoverished nation.

“The fair trade movement has buying power, and we want to empower our buying to make a difference around the world,” Stow said.

The movement also helps to raise public consciousness about slave labor, child trafficking and other forms of exploitation that have been linked to cheap imported products turned out by workers in overseas sweatshops, she added.

When consumers buy items that have been certified as fair trade, they help ensure that a much greater share of the proceeds will be driven back to the artisans and laborers who produced those goods, O’Donnell and Stow said.

The international non-profit organizations that will be represented at Fair Trade Siesta include the Ninash Foundation, launched by State University College of Oneonta professor Ashok Malhotra in memory of his late wife, Nina.

The foundation seeks to expand literacy among children, especially girls, and funds from the sale will help pay for teachers’ salaries in rural India, the organizers said.

Also represented will be Mayan Hands, which works in Guatemala, Jolom Mayaetik, the weaving cooperative, and Art Matenwa of Haiti, a collaborative begun by Ellen LeBow, an artist from Wellfleet, Ma.

The Green Earth Community Room is located at 4 Market St., Oneonta.

More information about Fair Trade Fiesta is available by calling 434-2547 or 437-7158 or through the Facebook page Fair Trade Fiesta Oneonta.