As I was visiting Myanmar, I had the privilege to visit a few villages where tourists don’t generally go. I met an old lady who was making a basket.She was so fast. I was simply mesmerized by her skills. I talked about this with the guide and he made me realize how we often pay a lot less than we should do.
How long did it take her to make this unique basket?
She might have worked on this for hours, for days.
How much should we pay for this unique piece?
These were all questions that made perfect sense. They were under-selling their skills as they were desperate for money.
The truth is that I’m privileged enough to go visit her country. The truth is that life isn’t fair, that some people have a lot more chances when they start their life than others…. And we regularly forget about this by saying things like: If you want it, you can go get it!
Is this always true?
I’ll give you three examples.
Three babies are born at the exactly the same time.
Baby A comes from a rich family. Parents are still together and have been saving for years. They will make sure to send their kid to a good school, offering him a good education and the best health services.
Baby B comes from a poorer family. The mother has no clue who the father is. She is 17 years old and dropped out of school. She will move in a flat on her own in the cheapest flat she can find. The neighborhood is dodgy, but at least she can pay rent.
Baby C comes from a family living in the rice terraces. Parents are still together and they have been working on the rice paddocks for years. They might be able to send one of their kids to school, but they know that they might never be able to see this kid again. The other kids will also work on the rice terraces when they will be old enough.
Three babies. Three different lives. Three difference chances. Baby A is the privileged one. It doesn’t mean, he will turn out alright, but his chances of having a “great life” are higher than the other two.
Baby B and Baby C might be less privileged, but, perhaps, they will grow up in a loving family. They might be happier. They might get sick. They might die younger. Life wasn’t necessarily fair here, was it?
But, life is somehow interesting. A might travel the world at some point and he might meet B who could actually be a backpacker. Someday, his travels bring him to Myanmar where he could meet C. C has a skill for making baskets. A might try to negotiate C’s prices. He knows he could get another basket cheaper somewhere else.
This is life.
Please, note that I used a male gender here, but the whole situation could also be a lot different if these babies would actually be female.
When life isn’t fair, there are other options too.
When I heard about Discovered, I thought about this lady who was making this unique basket. I remembered everything I learned when I studied to be a social worker. And I smiled.
I had to share this with you guys.
What if this lady or if Baby C could use the power of Internet to reach a bigger market?
Discovered is actually a platform that was made to help artisans to sell their products and reach a wider audience. The platform was also humanized so you can learn about the stories behind your purchases and even chat with the artisan.
Their goals are to reduce poverty and to encourage self-reliance for people at the base of the pyramid, especially women.
How Discovered help the artisans?
As the artisans can sell their products directly, they can charge a higher price to their customers, but also collect the correct value for their handmade products. They partnered with companies who care about the artisan’s welfare and pay them a bigger wage. When looking at the seller, we can see that the traders are fair and work with local artisans. You can read many of their stories here.
Discovered customers are also after cultural products which means that artisans don’t have to follow the actual trends and can continue to produce traditional crafts and techniques. Also, they are also encouraged to use sustainable material, like recycled or natural material.
Basically, Discovered is a great example of empowerment.
If you have never heard of empowerment, here’s a short way to describe it.
In the previous example, Baby B and Baby C will have a higher risk to oppression (in this case, it could be poverty and if they are baby girls, they might also be oppressed by their sex). Under oppression, these two humans will have less rights than others. They might struggle to get health services, an education or the life that every human deserves. This means that they lost control of their life, they lost control of their steering wheel. With empowerment, they will learn what they can do to slowly take this control back. They will fight for their rights, they will fight for what is right, so they can feel free again.
With Discovered, the artisans can actually break into a bigger market, which gives their more money, but also more possibilities. A wider range of possibilities also means a lot more freedom.
Let me tell you a story.
Busarin Shinawatra is from the United States, but her family comes from Thailand. A few years ago, her parents decided to get back to Thailand. She decided to follow them two years later and since then, she lives there.
The fabrics she uses come from Hmong tribes, where they pass down their techniques from generation to generation. Hmong tribes are originally from China, but are now in many mountain regions in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. Their colorful designs are truly impressive and this why she uses these textiles to create her products.
This creates a cool opportunity for local artisans to keep doing their products as they are noticed and they can reach a bigger market this way.
Busarin’s story is only one story among many other beautiful stories of more privileged people out there helping local artisans!
Here are my favorite colorful items found on their website:
Grey Mix Chrystal Wrap Bracelet
Artisan Ethnic Tribal Woven Backpack
Handcrafted & Painted Traditional Golden Teapot
Bicycles Laptop Sleeve
White & Pink Fish Embroidered Baby Mobile
Discovered is a unique way to help less fortunate communities by buying fair products. In the meantime, you can find original and colorful items to decorate your own home or to give away as a unique present.
Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by Discovered. As always, all opinions are my own. Happy travels!