Along with other vendors, Sabeen Ahmed set up her little eco-booth for the first time at Masdar City’s Street Fair and Organic Market last Friday. The first to introduce Fair Trade to the Middle East, she normally sells her wares at the weekend Covent Garden Market in Dubai, where she is surrounded by consumers who prefer brand names to the humble products painstakingly crafted by struggling artisans. But the Little Fair Trade Shop’s founder is so passionate about what she does that she presses on despite a flock of obstacles.
Mrs. Ahmed recognizes my red and yellow bead bracelets crafted by Masaai people in Kenya since she imports similar fair trade products from the same tribe.
But her vision is not limited to the African continent. The high-quality products she sells include stunning copper necklaces from Egypt, incredily detailed embroidered fabrics from India, as well as recycled glass jewelry from South America that caught my wandering eye.
According to Fairtrade International, “Not all trade is fair. Farmers and workers at the beginning of the chain don’t always get a fair share of the benefits of trade. Fairtrade enables consumers to put this right.”
After returning several hours later, it seems that Mrs. Ahmed is successfully doing her part. With Emirati and expatriate families pulsing through the streets of Masdar, her table was surrounded by half a dozen women cooing over the colorful crafts. My favorite trapeze glass pendant had long been whisked up.
Mrs. Ahmed’s husband Mr. Ali has spent almost his entire adult life working in the hospitality industry, and the Little Fair Trade Shop belongs entirely to his wife. But he supports what she is doing. In fact, he says that he has learned a lot about eco-developments through her efforts.
“I feel for her though since she spends all day in the terrible heat.” Modeled after its namesake in England, the Covent Garden Market in Dubai is an outdoor event that takes place during the “cooler months.” But towards the end, the heat can be unbearable.
Despite her extraoridinary commitment and heart, Mrs. Ahmed explains that she has to go to the UK if she wants her business to be a success. People in the Middle East don’t really understand what fair trade means, Mrs. Ahmed told me.
“Whereas people in the United States and Europe are aware of fair trade principles, I have to educate people from the grassroots up.”
If she is able to do well in England, then Mrs. Ahmed can continue the good work of generating more momentum in the Middle East as well.
To learn more about the Little Fair Trade Shop or to support their work, please visit their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=187296530075&v=info .
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