The Association for Craft Producers (ACP) is a non-profit trade organization that provides design, marketing, management, and technical services to low income, predominantly women, Nepalese craft producers. Meera Bhatterai founded ACP in 1984 with a vision to pay women directly, teach them how to price their work so as not to be exploited in the market & ultimately to give women a greater voice. Today, because of ACP, nearly 1000 women from 15 districts in Nepal have the opportunity to become more financially independent and have gained more credibility in their communities through the production of their crafts.
Conscious Connections Foundation’s Power of 5 Program, grew out of the Fair Trade organization, Ganesh Himal Trading’s 30+ year relationship with ACP as together we realized that even though the women had fair trade jobs, they were often single income earners with large extended families to care for, including elderly parents. As a result, their children–especially girl children–were being pulled out of school due to the costs of buying books, uniforms, pencils and general exam costs. To help the women producers be able to keep their children in school, ACP set up a need based “girl child education fund” which provides a stipend to a producers family every month that their child is enrolled and attending school. With high demand, ACP eventually extended the stipend to include the son’s of producers but only if daughters were enrolled as well. ACP’s difficulty was they only had the means to cover these costs for a small portion of the children needing it and only for 3 years (rather than the full 10 years of school).
Throughout Ganesh Himal Trading’s relationship with ACP they helped to support their “Girl Child Education Program” but with the formation of CCF in 2014 the expansion of the program was given full priority. Now CCF and ACP work in partnership to fully endow this program for the 180+ students involved so that it will cover their entire 1-10 education and provide for competitive scholarship for girls for 11th and 12th class.
ACP voluntarily administers this program so that there are no administrative costs in Nepal. CCF is an all volunteer non-profit organization in the U.S. and bank fees are covered by a generous donor so that $10/month can provide the money needed to keep a child in school. ACP and CCF have also committed to creating and endowment for the program so that it will continue well into the future. This is a wonderful collaboration that will help working women artisans keep their children in school helping to break down the generational cycle of poverty.
The impact of ACP’s programs are extensive and have empowered women across Nepal:
- For many women, producing for ACP has meant breaking the constraints of a patriarchal society and gaining control of the money they earn.
- Most producers at ACP were not educated as children due to poverty and cultural constraints. Now, financially stable and with assistance from ACP’s girl child education fund (the Power of 5), many are able to send their children, especially daughters to school and even on to college, breaking down the cycle of generational poverty.
- Working conditions in Nepal are often poor, lacking proper ventilation, with leaking roofs and rough mud floors. Projects led by ACP have changed workshops into healthier, cleaner spaces. These changes have affected the health, productivity and morale of ACP’s producers and has given them a greater sense of self respect.
- Before working with ACP many producers had never visited a doctor, know their constitutional rights or had a bank account. ACP prides itself on providing these benefits and more to all producers. For these Nepali families, access to medical stipends, health and dental camps, interest bearing savings accounts, and retirement, is life changing.
Ganesh Himal has been a proud partner of ACP since 1986 and is consistently one of their top 10 buyers. Working in partnership with ACP on design and marketing we provide a growing fair trade market free of exploitation. CCF has been a proud partner with ACP on their education programs since 2013 providing educational stipends for producers in need and competitive college scholarships for girls. For more information and to donate to these programs see The Power of 5 & The Joy Attwood College Scholarship pages.