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Evanston Store Uses Fair Trade Diplomacy to Work for Peace with Pakistan Ending Poverty to End Conflict

Riffat is proud that she can help support her family in the village of Rata, Pakistan.

As the ever-changing relationship between the United States and Pakistan continues to headline the news daily, Ten Thousand Villages in Evanston realizes that these tensions are between governments, not between the people of these countries who do not choose them but whose lives are affected forever by them. To help build a positive peace in Pakistan, Ten Thousand Villages is holding its Annual Fair Trade Oriental Rug Event from September 12-18 at 719 Main Street in Evanston.

Approximately 300 rugs, each handmade in Pakistani homes by fairly paid adult artisans, will be available for sale in a variety of unique designs and sizes ranging from 2' x 3' to 10' x 14' and runners. An Introduction to Oriental Rug Seminar will be held at the Evanston Public Library on Tuesday, September 13 at 7 p.m. and at the store on Wednesday, September 14 at 7 p.m.

The rugs all come from an artisan group in Pakistan known as Bunyaad. The name meaning "foundation" in Urdu, Bunyaad works to create strong foundations that create peace in the villages of Pakistan by paying a fair wage to its artisan families. Bunyaad has grown to include over 850 families in roughly 100 villages throughout Pakistan and is gradually building a positive peace.

A positive peace, not just the absence of violence, happens only when people earn a living wage, have access to education, have their human needs met, have social and political equality, are respected and involved with their community and can see opportunities for a brighter future. These conditions help build trust between people who begin cooperating with each other and working toward common goals that will improve their lives.

Bunyaad builds peace by breaking the cycle of poverty for the artisans. Bunyaad artisans, male and female, receive the same living wage for their work, allowing them to build better homes and living conditions and create educational opportunities for their children. If not paid a living wage, artisans need to borrow money from high-interest local lenders to afford family necessities and begin a downward spiral of debt. Bunyaad offers a no-interest loan to the artisans to pay off other creditors, a loan that is repaid at a rate that their family finances best allow. Money from loan repayment is invested in improving the infrastructure of the village.

"Bunyaad builds peace by showing rug artisans respect," explains Yousaf Chaman, director of Bunyaad. "Bunyaad artisans choose the color and design of each rug they produce. They allow nature, tradition and inspiration to guide their creativity. By respecting each artisan's creative ingenuity, our rug events and year-round rug galleries showcase a collection of handknotted rugs in which each rug is a unique piece of functional art crafted to last for generations."

"When asked what they like about working for fair trade, artisans will always say that it is the respect that they receive from Bunyaad," said Chaman.

Bunyaad's attitude of respect was shown most recently when they paid the artisans lost wages from the devastating floods of August 2010.

Bunyaad builds peace by giving women an equal opportunity as men. With looms located inside artisans' village homes, this project gives equal opportunity for women to work, earning the same wage for their work as their male counterparts. In the villages, there is very little opportunity for employment, especially for women. Work on the looms gives women year-round, stable employment over which they have control. With this income, women are finding increased financial independence and can financially contribute to the success of their family. They are able to send their children to school and plan for the future. Having a wage-earning skill gives these women a sense of pride as well as an avenue to true social change for themselves and their family.

"By working with women in their village homes, we are not only empowering women and their families but their entire communities," said Doug Horst,Ten Thousand Villages store manager. "There is a great transformative power that women with a living-wage income possess."

Bunyaad builds peace by welcoming Christians and Muslims into their program. Working side by side toward a goal of a good living for their families, commonalities are realized rather than differences.

Bunyaad builds peace by supporting 10 schools throughout Pakistan, helping many children, especially young girls, have easier access to education. Sometimes the distance to the school is so great that parents do not feel comfortable letting their young girls walk to school. Bunyaad both builds and supports schools to reach such students. One example is the Darianwala Girls High School, located in the village of Darianwala in northeast Pakistan. This school educates over 650 girls from grades K through 12. These girls dream of becoming teachers, doctors and other professionals, dreams that are now possible to achieve. Both Muslim and Christian students attend these schools, learning their commonalities in spite of religious differences.

"It may sound simplistic but it works. Every Bunyaad rug that we sell means that an artisan in Pakistan has a fair paying job that supports their family… Kids go to school… People can plan for their future… Artisans feel good about those who are purchasing their product because they have been treated fairly. A peace is created. It's that simple," said Horst. "The ripple effects of fair trade are truly transformative. Being intentional about how you shop can truly change the world!"

An Artisan's View of Attaining Peace

Liaqat, a village supervisor, lives in the village of Lengha, Pakistan and began working for Bunyaad eighteen years ago. The economy of Liaqat's village is struggling because of its proximity to the Indian border. The possibility of unrest deters businesses from locating there. Working for Bunyaad has enabled Liaqat to give his four daughters an education through high school. Liaqat expresses how education holds the key to peace in Pakistan.

"All the children should be educated. Once they are educated, I don't care if they become farmers or employees or start their own businesses, but they need to have an education. An educated person won't get into disputes, won't start arguing about anything….(with) a lack of education you don't know how to communicate and a lot of misunderstanding goes on," said Liaqat. "With education, a person knows right from wrong….Education is like jewelry, you wear it and it transforms you as a person."

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