Sonia Anahue Uscamayta, right, is pictured with other women in her jewelry cooperative in Peru.
Sonia Anahue Uscamayta, right, is pictured with other women in her jewelry cooperative in Peru.

Fair trade saves lives, families and cultures

Fair trade is not charity.

Fair trade is not the selling of trinkets.

Fair trade is simply this: Artisans who make their products receive living wages for the work they do. And the cooperatives they work for set a fair and just price.

Fair trade is the face of Sonia Anahue Uscamayta of Peru, who creates beautiful jewelry.

She once worked 80 hours a week, for $115, in a Lima factory where the doors were often locked from the outside so workers could not escape.

Uscamayta has worked in a cooperative for four years, earning a livable wage with better hours and no locked doors.

You can meet her in Spokane and see for yourself the wearable art she makes and sells. You can hear her story. You can understand how buying fair trade goods from Peru ties into social justice efforts in the Inland Northwest.

Uscamayta is part of the national “Fair Trade Tour” organized by Partners for Just Trade and Green America. The tour will make stops in San Francisco, Eugene, Portland and the Seattle area before arriving in Spokane next week.

On Monday, Uscamayta will speak at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Spokane. On Tuesday, she’ll speak during a brown-bag lunch at Kizuri, a fair-trade store at 35 W. Main Ave.

Another Peruvian woman, Yody Gladys Moran Trillo, who founded a cooperative of knitters, is also part of the national tour, but health problems may prevent her from making the Spokane appearance.

Local residents who have been working for years to raise awareness about fair trade practices and products are delighted to host the tour.

“We always said that someday we want to be able to bring in artisans to tell their own stories,” said Mary Frankhauser, coordinator of the visit for First Presbyterian Church.

“We are so excited. When you buy the product, when you know the person who made it, you understand better the human relationship, and it makes the purchase more meaningful.”

Kim Harmson, owner of Kizuri, said: “It’s important for people to think about how their money is working – or not.

“This presentation will give people a tangible and personal interaction with people whose lives have been changed dramatically through fair trade. These are skilled artisans who work very hard to provide basic needs for themselves and their families.

“I want people to know that you can find what you’re looking for fairly traded. The (items) are functional, beautiful and they preserve culture.”

The events will feature talks by tour organizers, fair trade displays and information about other fair-trade venues. And, of course, people will meet Uscamayta and hear her story.

“It’s an opportunity to come with questions,” Frankhauser said. “There will be a lot of knowledgeable people there excited about the work they do.”

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