The 2014 Fairtrade Fortnight was marked by the third annual general meeting of the Montrose Fairtrade Forum on Tuesday (March 4).
The meeting was held in Montrose Academy at 7 p.m. and opened with the presentation to Ian Sykes, forum chairman, by two Nepalese Fairtrade producers, of a certificate renewing Fairtrade status for Montrose for the next two years. This was as a result of continued progress in local Fairtrade activities, plus assistance in helping Angus become a Fairtrade Zone.
The speakers were introduced by Helen Rothwell, a staff member of the Scottish Fairtrade Forum, who arranged their tour. The two speakers work for Get Paper Industry (GPI), a Nepalese cooperative based in Kathmandu, established in 1985 and given Fairtrade status in 1989, becoming a supplier to Body Shop International, and subsequently to Traidcraft.
Production manager Mandira Kuikei Bhattarai presented slides showing how waste cotton bags are handmade into paper, which can be dried and then screen printed or dyed before being cut to produce boxes and cards, as well as sheets of paper.
The number of employees has risen from 14 to more than 100, but another 600 women work part time.
Mandira stressed that women are marginalised in Nepal, so that this work brings dignity to their lives by giving them a sustainable income to help educate their children.
Amisha Bhandari, responsible for Fairtrade standards, then outlined two of the areas on which GPI focuses. The first is Education of girls, 200 of whom are currently in school. The first one room building appeared in 1993 but, as her slides showed, the number and size of schools has gradually been extended. The second is health, with emphasis on HIV/Aids awareness by the distribution of condoms; and on support for female sex workers. As elsewhere, there is a great problem with trafficking of young girls. GPI has enabled these sex workers to free some of the girls, and train them in groups to assemble a range of paper products.