Jane Shepherdson is the CEO of Whistles and a non-Executive Director of People Tree. She travelled recently with Safia Minney to visit Swallows, one of the Fair Trade groups People Tree works with in Bangladesh. Swallows provides work for more than 200 women. The artisans create beautiful garments, including dresses and tops, using hand-woven and hand-embroidered fabric.
For International Women’s Day, we asked Jane to pick her favourite dress made by the women at Swallows for the Spring collection – and to tell us about her experience visiting Swallows.
“The Carla check shirtdress is the perfect summer dress. My style is slightly androgynous so this dress has it all for me. It feels as casual and familiar as your boyfriends checked shirt, but tied at the waist with the collar up, it is by far the coolest dress I’ve seen this year.
This dress is made at Swallows, which I visited not long ago, and was amazed to see the difference that Fair Trade has made to the lives of the women who work there. The fair price that People Tree pays for their products has allowed these women to lead dignified lives, properly caring for and educating their children.
One woman told me that her ex husband had abused her, but that by working at Swallows, she now earned enough to support herself and her child, and that she had now left him. When I asked if she would get a new husband, she looked at me as if I was mad and said, ‘Why would I?’
Earning a decent living wage is something that we take for granted, but in Bangladesh it is not the case for many women.