Sabeena Ahmed - Fairtrade Nomad and Optimist for Change
My fairtrade journey began September 2008 whilst studying an online distance Islamic Banking and Insurance course. Much to my surprise I had an epiphany!
A paragraph illustrating how Islam promotes the equal distribution of wealth evoked strong emotions. Stories of social injustice and disparity of earnings amongst the poorest people around the world fuelled a desire to take action.
In the weeks that followed I searched the internet and discovered the home page of the World Fair Trade Organization.
The World Fair Trade Organization Mark
The Ten Principles of Fair Trade
The need to talk immediate action was cemented when I read the document ''An Islamic Perspective on Fair Trade'' by Dr Ajaz Ahmed Khan and Dr Laura Thaut Vinson published by Islamic Relief UK.
I've attached a video of my fairtrade journey and timeline for you to watch at your leisure.
My fairtrade journey video
The journey so far has been fraught with challenges and financial limitations.
As the only fairtrade campaigner, educator and modest retailer in the United Arab Emirates I have struggled to create a niche market for fair trade products.
Nevertheless, I have never lost heart and am more determined than ever to dispel the myth about fairtrade being ''a charity.'' I continue to educate people about fairtrade artisans and groups by promoting the principles of a living wage, self-reliance, empowerment, transparency, environmental sustainability and dignity and self respect for all.
I have been supported by many fairtrade and non-profit organisations around the world.
The World Fair Trade Organization's Chief Executive Ms. Natalia Leal, Chief Executive of the Fairtrade Foundation Mr. Michael Gidney, Director of The FIG Tree the worlds first fairtrade visitors centre Garstang/Lancaster, UK, Bruce Crowther MBE and Ms Rita Verity of Howarth the worlds first fairtrade village have sent messages of support and encouragement.
Visit to The FIG Tree - Garstang, United Kingdom
My Fair Trade Heroine Rita Verity Director and Owner of
Sonia's Smile, Haworth, UK
Rita Verity and Me!
I have been fortunate to receive a warm reception from hundreds of local expatriates and like minded international tourists.
I call them my ''Fair Trade Angels'' because without them I could not support fairtrade organisations around the world.
I am happy and proud to be an individual associate member of The World Fair Trade Organization since 2011 and won the BOLDtalks Open Mind Award 2011.
The Little Fair Trade Shop Winner of The BOLDtalks Open Mind Award 2011
It is my passion and ambition to physically visit as many fairtrade producers as financial possible and I have been fortunate to visit artisans in Bangkok, Cairo, Bali, Haripur, Karachi, Kegalle, Kurunegale, Pinnawala and Rawalpindi.
I fulfilled a life time ambition to visit Pakistan December 2011 and February 2015 and met the only two fairtrade certified organisations in Karachi and Rawalpindi. I also conducted interviews with a government official and non profit organisations who are working towards implementing the ten principles of fairtrade. Each organisation has a dual role and purpose; 1. to support rural artisans establish and develop strong sustainable projects and 2. revive traditional skills and techniques.
I completed producing and editing a series of short films and a documentary to create awareness for fairtrade in Pakistan. I feel very honoured and humbled to be representing the most inspirational ladies and artisans around the world.
Interview with Mr Younis Inayat - Fairtrade businessman and fairtrade advocate
Interview with Syed Fahad Ali CEO at The Dominion Traders, Karachi, Pakistan, (revisited 2015)
interview with Mrs Nisreen at the Ra'ana Liaquat Craftman's Colony, Karachi, Pakistan (revisited 2015)
During Spring 2013 The Little Fair Trade Shop's two short films were listed on the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) website supporting a series called 'Pakistan Calling.'
The two interviews are attached below.
The Little Fair Trade Shop's visit to Zaytoun (Fair trade Palestinian products), London, UK - November 2016
I continue to meet fairtrade pioneers and organisations in the United Kingdom and support their work. I envisage working with Divine UK, Zaytoun UK, The Muslim Council of Britain, Women's organisations, members of parliament, social enterprises such as The Lorna Young Foundation, The British Council and fairtrade pioneers such as Café Direct, Equal Exchange, Ten Thousand Villages, SERVV and many other fairtrade and ethical manufacturers, producers and artisans around the world.
Bruce Crowther MBE Director of The FIG Tree and Sabeena Ahmed, Garstang, UK - November 2016
I would also like to work with government departments and authorities, visionaries, philanthropists, business consultants, documentary film makers and anyone wanting to make a change in the world.
Meeting with Christina Longden, Ian Agnew and Abiyot Sherifaw of The Lorna Young Foundation
During June 2012 I was proud and honoured to attend the first fairtrade postgraduate course at the Liverpool Hope University, United Kingdom. The course was led by acclaimed Professor Bob Doherty who had previously worked as the head of marketing at Divine Chocolates UK. I met many fairtrade retailers, supporters and campaigners and their commitment and passion has motivated me to continue my fairtrade journey to raise the profile of fairtrade producers in the United Arab Emirates and to also educate the Asian Community in the United Kingdom to support fairtrade.
Fairtrade Campaigners at The Anti-Slavery Museum, Liverpool, UK
L-R Ms Figglestone, Mr Martin Roe, Ms Catherine Mallon,
Ms Jenny Foster and Mrs Sabeena Ahmed
Fairtrade Postgraduate Course at the Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK
My beloved mother the late Mrs Meshar Mumtaz Bano fairtrade supporter extraordinaire, Manchester, UK
During March 2012 my family received devastating news that our beautiful mother had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. After a long and courageous four year struggle with cancer my beloved mother Mrs Meshar Mumtaz Bano returned to her maker April 2016.
I remember one the last conversations I had with her where she said she was proud of me and gave her blessings for me to continue with my fairtrade work.
With her final words embedded in my heart and soul forever and I am more determined and motivated to continue to raise awareness for fairtrade and campaign for social and trade justice.
Without a doubt, I cannot deny that the past four years has put immense pressure on my personal and professional life and the business became a secondary concern. It was my mothers strong determination and will to fight against this debilitating disease that I wanted to raise awareness about breast cancer research by supporting The Christie Hospital, Manchester, United Kingdom.
Night of Neon 10km walk for The Christies Hospital, Manchester, UK - October 2012
It is a honour and privilege to support fair trade organisations Friend's Handicraft and Maiti, Nepal who support and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking by designing and retailing handmade bags and home accessories.
The Friends Handicraft Ladies, Kathmandu, Nepal
100% of the proceeds of this beautiful totally bobbles fairtrade pink handbag are forwarded to The Christies Hospital, Manchester, United Kingdom.
Lisa coordinator of the Pink Caravan UAE modelling the totally pink bobbles fairtrade handbag
Meeting Professor Mohammad Yunus at Salford University
Professor Mohammad Yunis presented with a fairtrade peace plate produced by deaf artisans at Atfaluna Crafts, Gaza
While caring for my mother in Manchester I was able to attend a Social Business Conference hosted by the Salford University, United Kingdom and presented Nobel laureate Professor Mohammad Yunus a fairtrade ceramic plate produced by deaf artisans at Atfaluna Crafts, Gaza, Palestine. It was an inspirational day and one I will never forget.
The Fair Trade Lebanon Offices, Beirut, Lebanon
During Ramadhan June 2016 I attended my first international fair trade towns conference in Lebanon.
It was a wonderful experience and I met with many international fair trade co-ordinators from around the world.
International Fair Trade Co-ordinators and me on the bus to Fourzol, Lebanon - June 2016
The amazing Wafa and me at Fourzol Production Centre,
Lebanon - June 2016
I was asked to present a fairtrade puppet show and attended several fairtrade workshops.
Sabeena Ahmed and Movement Sociale presenting a fairtrade puppet show Fairis The Frog and Chalaak the Monkey
Movement Sociale and me presenting a fairtrade puppet show Fairis The Frog and Chalaak the Monkey
Many thanks to the Fair Trade Lebanon team for organising such a beautiful and informative event.
To read more about my visit to Baskinta please click on the links below.
Dr Jamil Sherif, Mrs Sabeena Ahmed, Mr Alistair Menzies at The Muslim Council of Britain - November 2016
During November 2016 I arranged a meeting with The Muslim Council of Britain, London, United Kingdom to discuss how fairtrade could be adopted by their 500+ affiliates.
I am very grateful to Dr Jamil Sherif (Senior Advisor), Mrs Nasima Begum (Media Officer) at The Muslim Council of Britain team for their time to meet with me. I would also like to thank Mr Alistair Menzies of Traidcraft who travelled down from Gateshead to attend this instrumental meeting.
Mrs Sabeena Ahmed, Mr Alistair Menzies at The Muslim Council of Britain - November 2016
The meeting was positive and The Muslim Council of Britain very kindly agreed to promote fairtrade producers at their event ''Visit My Mosque Day'' which is scheduled February 2017.
I wish them every success and hope that more mosques, Islamic centres/societies, women's organisations, parents, educators and interfaith groups with support fairtrade in their city, place of worship, workplace and educational institute.
To read more about my visit to The Muslim Council of Britain and Zaytoun please click on the link below.
The Little Fair Trade Shop at the Swiss Business Council Christmas Market, Abu Dhabi,
The Little Fair Trade Shop at the Masdar Institute, near Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates -
The Little Fair Trade Shop first started trading at the Convent Garden Market, Jumeira Beach Residences and completed two seasons 2009-2011. It also traded at the Ripe Organic and Craft market until from October 2011 to January 2013 and consciously traded at specialist events such as the Festival at Masdar, the Swiss Business Council Christmas Market, WOMAD Abu Dhabi, DUCTAC and the Arabian Travel Market.
The Little Fair Trade Shop at the Convent Garden Market Dubai, December 2010
Dr Samier admiring a St Marys embroidered wall hanging, December 2010
The Little Fair Trade Shop aspires to work with consumers of all ages and backgrounds, expatriates, educators, parents and young Emirati's to create awareness for the fairtrade movement of the United Arab Emirates. My aim is to organise social events and educate the youth about fairtrade, sustainability and ethical consumerism.
The Little Fair Trade Shop Limited supports Adopt A Camp, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This wonderful organisation supports guest workers by distributing food parcels, providing education, medical facilities and other recreational activities. 5000 packages are distributed to men and it is my aim and hope is to interview the volunteers and its director Sahar Sheikh in the near future.
Many will consider it ambitious but I hope to establish a fairtrade educational and interfaith network in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.
I was invited by primary school teachers Ms Aoibhan Barry and Ms Zoe Wilson to conduct a fairtrade workshop with children aged 9-12 yrs at The Star International School, Mirdiff, UAE, April 2015. It was a success and The Little Fair Trade Shop raised over 700 AED for fairtrade producers in Nepal who had lost workshops and studios during the earthquake.
Many thanks to the teachers and pupils who purchased fairtrade products and supported producers in Nepal.
I was also invited to The Preston University Ajman and conducted a presentation about fairtrade to students and lecturers at The Fashion and Design Department. Thank you to the Head of Fashion and Design Mr Saqib Sohail for his support and assistance.
The talk motivated a lively question and answering session and the students purchased fairtrade products.
During February 2016 I presented a talk about fairtrade to parents at the Home Grown Children's Eco Nursery Dubai. I am very grateful to Director of Education and Owner Lucy Bruce for supporting my work and Bruce Crowther MBE who sacrificed his sleep to Skype with parents at 4am GMT time.
I am hoping that The Home Grown Nursery will become the first fairtrade nursery in the United Arab Emirates.
Mums Do Fairtrade at the Home Grown Children's Eco Nursery, Dubai, UAE - February 2016
My fairtrade presentation at the Preston University, Ajman
Students admiring fairtrade recycled gifts at the Preston University, Ajman
Rest assured my passion, optimism and determination to raise the profile of fairtrade producers in developing countries especially those who are struggling with natural disasters and economic difficulties remains steadfast. I am forever the eternal optimist.
Helen Barlow Scott and Sabeena Ahmed
I hope to introduce more fairtrade foods and unique bespoke handicrafts to the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom by visiting and working with universities and schools in Manchester, London, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
I am currently working with fairtrade and non government Pakistani organisations to create a fairtrade Pakistani fashion and accessories collection in memory of my late mother Mrs Meshar Mumtaz Bano. The collection will highlight and promote the traditional embroidery supporting ladies from all provinces.
I hope that one day Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be pioneer cities and implement a blueprint for fairtrade in the Middle East. It would be a dream come to true to see Dubai acquire worldwide fairtrade city status.
Thank you for taking the time to read my fairtrade journey.
The best is yet to come! :) More fairtrade chapters to be written soon...
Many thanks to all my fairtrade supporters and friends across the world.
Love and regards
My Fairtrade Hands - Sabeena Ahmed and
The Little Fair Trade Shop
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August 1st 2017 marks my mother’s 65th birthday.
My beloved mother was a ‘courageous woman, she was my first school of thought, love, compassion and my paradise.’
Mum was an extraordinarily humble, kind and charismatic lady.
She could strike up a conversation with anyone. An empathetic listener, amazing chef and gardener, she possessed a sharp wit and humour that would instantly lift your spirits.
This month I was I was approached by Ellen van Dongen of the Responsible Shopping Dubai website and asked if The Little Fair Trade Shop would like to be featured. I said YES!
Attended my first Dubai Vegan Meet Up, continued with my Who Made My Clothes course and was diagnosed with a painful frozen shoulder.
I spent most of August 2016 with my siblings in London and mustered the energy to board a train to historical York to visit Shared Earth and talk with founder and owner Jeremy Piercy.
Many thanks to David Piercy for his time and support during my visit.
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