BaSE (BANGLADESH SHILPO EKOTA – Bangladesh Artisan Union)
The BaSE consortium, which coordinates the work of the artisan cooperatives in Bangladesh, was set up in 1992 to find structured commercial outlets in Italy firstly and then in other countries (Spain, Japan, Australia, United States). Some years later, in 1999, BaSE was granted official registration among the members of WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation).
BaSE initially involves people who are doubly disadvantaged: by being women and also by living in isolated rural villages. The artisan activities promoted by BaSE create work opportunities locally thus obviating the difficulty of receiving continued support from big development and cooperation institutions (south-west Bangladesh is in fact one of the most difficult regions of the country to reach, because of the distance and lack of infrastructures) and by creating equal opportunities prospects with people from the “privileged world”. The women involved in this activity, regardless of their religion, are immediately encouraged to have a responsible and solidary attitude, which is expressed also by giving a share of the profits from their work to a common fund, which they can access in case of difficulty. In all these years approximately 10,000 women involved in BaSE have learnt to write, to do accounts, to bargain for the purchase of prime materials and to carry out quality control as well as to organize the transport of their products; moreover, thanks to the fruits of their labours, they have been able to guarantee medical care to their families and to themselves, and to provide for their children’s studies and dowries for their daughters, as well as repairs or improvements to their homes. BaSE provides a series of social programmes to support the manufacturing activity of the artisan cooperatives, such as training on human rights with legal support where necessary, health and children’s education, information technology, animal and fish farming; it makes available rotating funds that all women can access in case of necessity such as school or medical fees or other extraordinary events and organizes screening and consequent health campaigns. The artisan production of the cooperatives of Bengali women has become diversified, in the course of the years, giving rise to a wide catalogue of products. At this moment there are thirteen legally established cooperatives, but there are also about ten spontaneous work groups that in any case refer to BaSE for selling their products. The growth of BaSE, one of the biggest Fair Trade organisations in Asia, has been possible thanks to the dedication and competence of Father Giovanni Abbiati, who unfortunately died in a road crash on 5th October 2009. His death caused a serious financial and organizational crisis, as the person on whom all of us relied, albeit within our own autonomy, was no longer.
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