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The Fig Tree helped spread fair trade locally, says fair trader

Denise Attwood of Ganesh Himal appreciated education effort.


"We have a strong fair-trade community and the reason for that is The Fig Tree and editor Mary Stamp," said Denise Attwood, who, with her husband Ric Conner, co-founded the fair-trade business, Ganesh Himal Trading Co. in Spokane in 1984 to work with producers in Nepal.

They also founded the nonprofit Conscious Connections Foundation, which works to remove more than economic barriers for women in Nepal.

"In all our work, our goal has been to connect people who wanted a place at the economic table with access to a market that could support them," she said.

"Fair trade helps North American consumers understand the impact of what we buy, while bringing economic security to people working in a country that is incredibly insecure and poor," she said.

"The Fig Tree has been a great proponent of social justice. Mary immediately understood that at the root of fair trade is economic justice," said Denise, telling of Mary also sharing her interest in creating cross-cultural connections to have an impact.

Because The Fig Tree educates and focuses on solutions, they helped build understanding of fair trade, she added.

"In interviews, Mary kept asking questions. She didn't stop with one article. She knew this was an evolutionary process, so she wrote one article and another and another to help people in this community understand that our buying choices impact lives," Denise commented.

"When we first started in 1984, there was no fair-trade movement. We engaged with people around the world to help create that movement. Mary covered Global Folk Art, when we started the volunteer-run fair-trade store. As others became involved, it grew into a movement.

"She interviewed Ric and me, Felipe Gonzales, Maria Cuc, Oscar Haupt, Mary and John Frankhauser and other people in the community involved in fair trade," Denise said.

"When Global Folk Art closed, she covered Kim Harmson starting Kizuri. She strengthened the fair-trade community by writing articles that helped people understand that fair-trade is about long-term relationships."

Mary has also interviewed the daughters of women Denise first worked with when the young women came to the U.S. to attend college, which was possible because of their parents' income from fair trade. Now they are going back to continue their parents' businesses.

As earthquakes and revolutions happened in Nepal, The Fig Tree followed the stories.

"That's why Spokane has a strong fair-trade community," she said. "There wouldn't be the kind of depth of understanding in this community without what Mary has done. She has provided a thread connecting developments, so people have seen the beautiful flowerings that have happened as this movement has grown."

The Fig Tree gives voice and visibility to fair trade.

"It matters that the stories have been told. It has made a huge difference," Denise said.

"The beauty of The Fig Tree's journalism is that it's intuitive. Mary called when we were forming our nonprofit as we began to understand women faced more than economic barriers. They needed access to education and menstrual hygiene training to experience social justice.

"Mary wrote articles and helped make things happen," Denise said. "Most reporters that I've talked to write just one article and may get much of it wrong. Mary checks to be sure it's accurate.

"It's about long-term relationships, because fair trade is complex. It's not that you're going to buy a pillow and everybody's going to be well," Denise said.

The Fig Tree has educated consumers about their responsibility as they make choices when they walk into a store, she explained. For example, some chocolate is produced using child or slave labor. Buying fair-trade chocolate is a way to allow kids to go to school and not support slavery. It's a choice. That choice helps form the world we want to live in.

"When we educate people like The Fig Tree has done, people become more mindful about how they spend their money because they understand their money has an impact," she said.

The fair-trade movement has also grown through churches and social justice movements.

"Every time I read The Fig Tree, I learn about the organizations and people doing good work in this community. I value that because I feel connected to people and know the positive things that are going on in this community," Denise continued.

"I feel uplifted. I feel unexpectedly joyous about what is happening in the world because there is so much good happening in the world. There is so much ferocious goodness out there, but those stories don't make the normal media," she said.

"Mary has relationships that are deep in this community. She knows who to follow. The Fig Tree tells us about the people who need to be seen so we can create a more just, sustainable, mindful world," Denise concluded.

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May 2024