It’s a Fair World, after all: This colorful bowl from Vietnam is made from rolled up magazine pages. Michael Davis photo.
Fair World Marketplace, 4471 E. Genesee St., DeWitt, provides a way to share cultures and at the same time help women around the world who don’t have the means to help themselves. Owner Maurine McTyre-Watts opened Fair World nearly 3½ years ago as a fair trade store.
Fair trade is an international movement that started nearly 60 years ago; it has caught on in Europe and is finally getting attention in the United States. The main idea is to increase the income of marginalized people, McTyre-Watts explained, providing jobs for people who don’t have a way to set up their own businesses. In many cases those people are women.
Fair trade includes setting up micro-lending so artisans can purchase the supplies they need to produce their goods without going into debt. In addition, fair traders pay artisans up front for their creations and don’t have to wait for them to sell in stores to receive their money.
“I think as Americans we go and we buy a lot of things but we never stop to think about who made the product or what’s their life like, what are their working conditions like, how much are they paid for a product?” McTyre-Watts pointed out. “And what fair trade tries to do is help people become conscious about that.”
To find merchandise to sell in the store, McTyre-Watts works with groups that have relationships with artisans throughout the world. She also works with groups based in the United States, in Denver and Burlington, Vt., that operate under the micro-lending process and get the merchandise to American stores. She currently buys directly from artisans in Calcutta, India and Tanzania.
One group she works with is Hope for Women, based in Burlington and started by Evan Goldsmith in 2004. Goldsmith explained that fair trade in the United States is akin to organic 15 years ago. “It took organic awhile to go from this thing that was perceived as, hey that’s what hippies do, to now where it’s totally mainstream,” Goldsmith said. “And yes, you do it because it’s healthy and that’s why organic is so popular and I think fair trade is going to get there quickly.”
Goldsmith added that fair trade is a delicate matter and requires building trust with the artisans. “A long-term relationships with a group, meaning they can count on you, meaning we as a buyer of their products, are going to be there for the long haul,” Goldsmith explained. He lived in India at one point, working with different artisans to build that trust.
Fair World Marketplace also cares for women in the Syracuse area. McTyre-Watts has forged a partnership with Vera House, the mission of which is to end domestic and sexual violence. The relationship started in March 2007 when Fair World sold Freeset bags with 30 percent of the proceeds going to Vera House. This year, in recognition of March as International Women’s Month, the shop sold white ribbons to support Vera House’s annual fund-raising campaign. Anyone who brought in paper products for Vera House received a 10 percent off coupon for their next purchase.
A short drive to the store can do a whole world of good for someone else. “They’re not only finding some very beautiful, handmade products to give as gifts or for themselves but they are also helping to support lots of people,” McTyre-Watts said about her clientele. The store is open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 446-0326 or visit www.fairworldmarketplace.com.