Ethical, Personal, Revolutionary.
A (not so) revolutionary idea:
Know who is behind the products you buy
To many consumers, the idea of knowing where our products come from is unfamiliar, perhaps even uncomfortable. We have become accustomed to purchasing mindlessly, often blinded and even reassured by the excess of advertisements denying the consequences of our purchases.
At Cojolya, through being a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation, we opt to oppose this often harmful consumption pattern, and inspire a certain consciousness in people. We believe in treating our artisans with respect, working to better their lives, and restoring a (not so) revolutionary way to trade in our world: Fairly.
The 10 Principles
And what they mean to Cojolya
One: Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
The first principle of Fair Trade ensures opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers, such as small producers or association members. Our association was formed with the principal mission of helping women who were widowed in the war and left without a stable source of income. Although our approach has been modified, we continue to enact this principle by providing our artisans with training and professional development in order to help them move from economic insecurity to self-sufficiency. Click here to read more about our professional development program.
Two: Transparency and Accountability
Cojolya enacts the second principle of Fair Trade through our publications of plans and processes, our annual reports, presence on social media, and the consistent involvement of our artisans in our decision making processes. Our board of directors, composed of seven of our artisans, meets consistently to discuss Association goals and needs. Furthermore, every product comes tagged with the name of the weaver and designer, in order for Cojolya to maintain a transparent relationship with our consumers so they can buy confidently.
Three: Fair Trade Practices
Cojolya enacts the third principle of Fair Trade in all of our trading interactions. We are transparent with our buyers, and communicate to our weavers how much we need produced and when. Our goal is never to maximize profit, but rather better the lives of our artisans and their families. We have developed relationships with our artisans based on trust and strong communication.
Four: Fair Payment
At Cojolya, we work with our artisans to ensure we are providing them with fair compensation for their work. Knowing the length of time that our artisans require to weave each product allows us to determine a Fair price. Our artisans receive at least twice what they would receive selling their products in the market. By doing this, we have helped artisans such as Maria (pictured right) start their own businesses.
Five: Ensuring no Child Labor and no Forced Labor
Cojolya has never and will never have children working for the organization, nor force individuals to work for us. In Santiago, the enrollment rate for students drops from 74% to 24% between primary school to junior high school, and many children begin working at a young age. Thus, our social development program , Mano a Mano para El Desarrollo, is working to keep our kids in school through providing them with necessary resources, assistance , and encouragement to continue their education. To read more about this program, click here.
Six: Commitment to No Discrimination, Gender Equity, Freedom of Association
Of our 28 artisans, 23 are women. Our association was formed during the Guatemalan Civil War, in which T'zutujil men were targeted and killed by government and other groups, leaving many women widowed and without a reliable income source. Thus, Cojolya was created initially to help provide these women with secure income. Since then, we continue to focus on improving the lives of women of Santiago by providing them with opportunities traditionally reserved for men.
Seven: Good Working Conditions
Most of our weavers work in their own homes, and when they finish weaving products, they come to our office so that our confeccionista can sew them into the pieces we sell. This is beneficial for our artisans, because they have obligations outside of Cojolya as mothers, wives, daughters, etc. and are able to work on their own schedules. We do also have space reserved in our office for weaving that our artisans are always welcome to use.
Eight: Capacity Building
Our Association works to provide our artisans with the training they need in order to strengthen their skill set. Furthermore, if no one in the association has the capacity to teach a certain skill, we reach outside of Cojolya to provide our weavers with what they need. To read more about our professional development program, click here.
Nine: Promote Fair Trade
We promote Fair Trade through a balanced communication between producers and consumers. We are clear on our sales site that all of our products are Fair Trade.Through this transparency, we are able to further promote the Fair Trade mission. Furthermore, we annually attend events to promote Fair Trade, including exhibitions in Antigua, Guatemala. Additionally, Carina (La Jefe) will be traveling to India this November for a WFTO convention.
Ten: Respect for the Environment
The training and discussions that we have with our weavers and their children often focus on respecting the environment. Cojolya is currently partnering with a cloth bag producer who will produce bags for all of our weavers to use in the marketplace in order to combat the increasing threat of plastic bags in Santiago. Furthermore, we work to ensure that our thread is sourced responsibly, and that all of the steps of our production process has a limited impact on the environment.