Skilling India and Fair Trade

Gabriel who works in MESH for Producer Development attended Fair Trade Forum India’s 15th Annual Convention and AGM in Bhuj, Gujarat from 19th – 21st of September 2015. To find out more Jacky has interviewed him –

MESH: You attended Fair Trade Forum India’s 15th Annual Convention, can you tell us about the theme for the convention?

Gabriel: The Theme was Skilling India for Building a Fair Trade World.

MESH: Can you tell us why that theme was selected?

Gabriel: The Government of India has a huge initiative to skill India and Fair Trade Forum consider this would be a good opportunity for Fair Trade Forum India members and their groups to obtain support from the Government in the form of projects or training.

MESH: Did you get any information about initiatives that MESH groups could directly benefit from as a result of MESH’s membership of FTF I?

Gabriel: Yes, FTF I is planning to launch a website of products supplied by members so that if someone searches for fair trade products in India they will be directed to that FTF I website which will link them to the member’s websites. This should allow products from our groups to reach a larger number of people.

MESH: I understand that World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) is planning to hold their next Conference in India in 2017, was that mentioned at all at the FTF I convention.

Gabriel: Yes, the WFTO conference is to be held in Delhi in 2017. FTF I is offering to take the initiative for the organization of the event. The members at the meeting in Bhuj urged FTF I to keep following up and everyone showed their interest to contribute to the overall effort.

MESH: Please tell me more about Mann ki Baat which I heard you mention after returning from the convention.

Gabriel: The Indian Prime Minister Mr. Modi has a monthly radio talk to the nation which is called Mann ki Baat. It is an opportunity for him to share his heart’s desire with the people of the nation. FTF I thought it would be good for the members do something similar amongst themselves as a way of encouraging and spreading ideas. So for example, Chinni Swamy from Purkal Stree Shakti Samati shared how her original very small scale approach to teaching women a skill for employment has grown over time. The participants from Noah’s Ark shared how they began to put their profits back into improving the lives of the artisans who make their products. Our own Mr. Showriappa from Bethany Colony Leprosy Association shared details of how the work in the leprosy colony had grown over the years but now with the people affected by leprosy growing old there was a need to readdress their changing needs. He asked people to share any ideas they have to pay for health care for the elderly people affected by leprosy in Bethany.

Mann ki Baat

MESH: This was your first experience of an Annual General Body Meting of an organization was there anything that surprised you?

I found it interesting to observe the processes of decision making. I had not quite realized before how the AGM calls upon the membership for their opinion and must democratically debate all the ideas until they reach a consensus. This time for example it was decided to extend the tenure of membership on the committee to four years but ensure change of 50% of the committee members every time, thereby being sure of a dynamic organization but also one with continuity.

MESH: Was there any single point/idea that you have taken away from the convention that you would like to share.

Gabriel: There was a session on Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and for the first time I realised that when applying for funding or support from a corporate we need to select projects that will yield a tangible result as that is most satisfying for the corporate to demonstrate it’s commitment to CSR. For example CSR donors are more likely to support a project building toilets than one seeking funding for capacity building. We must understand the mindset of the corporate when applying for CSR funding.

Sep. 28th 2015.