Amazing Friends of Amazing Friends

Fair Trade brings like minded people around the world together.  Sometimes it is through the short business chain of producers, importing partners and retailers.  Sometimes, as in this case, it is through friends of friends of friends.  

When we first moved back to Kansas almost four years ago I was told by numerous people that I should meet Summer Lewis.  Summer is from Manhattan, Kansas, and that anyone would think we are alike is a major complement to me.  She has worked for Equal Exchange, the Asian University for Women and is now a consultant on international development projects, with a focus on coffee and gender.  She's lived more than half her life abroad and currently resides in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Check out her consulting company for a major boost.

From our friends in common, Summer and I became facebook friends.  She kindly shared something about our store and one of her friends from her time at the Asian University for Women took note.  Summer introduced us; one in Kansas and the other in Bangladesh.

I have never met Summer or our now common friend Azmina Karim in person, but I know that I admire and respect these ladies.  They are each talented go-getters, I tell you.  

Azmina speaking at Harvard University with Connecther.  Harvard is connected with the Film Festival.   

Azmina speaking at Harvard University with Connecther.  Harvard is connected with the Film Festival.   

Azmina works as a program director for Connecther which is an organization focused on projects by and for women in oppressed places.  This is not a post about Fair Trade, actually, but about a woman who is empowering other women in the same places where many of our products originate.
Azmina’s English is amazing as you can read for yourself in this blog post that she has shared with us.  

Enjoy, friends, and thanks for being interested in what we find compelling ~ Amy Kay

Every single time I have attended a photo exhibition or art exhibition or film fest, I remember my utmost desperation to find a female name underneath the photo credit or the artwork. Visual art is a highly flexible tool that crosses cultural and linguistic barriers, and can be adapted to all abilities. Its power lies in its dual role as both art form and way to record facts. Despite such advantages women in our society do not have much of an access to describe realities, communicate perspectives, and raise awareness of social and global issues. 

Performance art is predominantly male dominated in a society like ours. Why wont it be like that? In a society where, there was an urge to reduce the age limit to marry off girls, girls do not have freedom and resources to get education or they usually don’t have a voice in the society, it is a dream to think women can come to this field. A field which is open to curve your own path. I cannot stop myself from imagining a society where we get to hear women telling us story about our culture, society, reporting us back on whats happening around them.

It is not too difficult to imagine that, especially when you see so much untapped potential around you.  A vision of a world in which everybody has the opportunity to represent themselves and tell their own story led me inspired to start of this fundraising.

Since 2013 as I started working closely with Connecther, every year I have witnessed and watched some incredibly well captured films. These films capture how women’s life is affected by war, urges of girls who wants to continue their education despite all the hardship they have to go through, the concept of beauty in girls eye, how sports can empower women, lives of sex workers working in brothel in Bangladesh (shared here).

A film focusing on the difficulties of street based sex workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, produced by a student from Asian University for Women.

When you see such powerful representation of storylines and stories, you must be thinking what is stopping these stories to come out, why don’t we get to see or hear it more often that this.

One answer is lack of resources and accessibility of these resources by girls in our society to enhance and nurture their skills. Past few months I have been relentlessly working to reach out to people so we can raise some money to buy few cameras to give out to the students of Asian University for Women to assist the students make more wonderful films. These films made by our students portray issues like gender discrimination, violence against women, child rights, achievement of women, women empowerment and many more such crucial matters. 

The Asian University for Women is an institution founded with a mission to provide an internationally recognized undergraduate program for women. The institution is geared towards empowering the new generation to strive towards higher education, and seeks to create critical thinkers who will be passionate and committed to their country and people.

Students eagerly learning in their film making class.

Students eagerly learning in their film making class.

Currently, there is a high level of interest by students at AUW in film studies. In particular, many students are passionate about using filmmaking and photography to bring to light social issues. These projects would allow students to work on films that deal with issues of social and environmental concern around the world and to use the opportunity to share their ideas and innovations.These films and photographs portray real life stories and scenarios of Asian region.

With your help we can reach to people overseas and make them aware of the issues and achievements of Asian women and at the same time would be able to reach our cause of support these talented young women. 

Your one initiative may lead to raising awareness and helping these young women to achieve something greater. Currently, I am working to raise $300 so we can reach our goal of buying two camera by the end of May, to have those equipments up for grab and let student work during summer. Please join us in this great initiative. 

~Azmina Karim studied at the University for Peace for a masters in Gender and Peace Building.  She has three sisters, six nieces and nephews, and parents whom she loves.  

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