The Elders


The pot economy

With the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in two days, Ela Bhatt shows us her Object of Fairness. Send us your object on Facebook or Twitter.

"When you buy a [locally-made] pot you are making a statement: 'I am concerned with the rural artisan who makes this pot.'"

Ela Bhatt pictured with locally produced and crafted clay pots.

My Object of Fairness is the simple clay pot, but it is so much more than that. Rural India has long been fuelled by local economies driven by the use of natural resources. Over half of India’s 1.2 billion population work within these rural economies and are self-employed. Many local artisans use natural resources to create products such as clay pots and textiles which contribute to the basic needs of daily life. Though these artisans create invaluable products for those living in rural India, they operate outside the more stable formal economic systems in place in India and the world.

By buying products locally, you make a statement of concern relating to the local artisan who has crafted the products, by cutting the distance between yourself and the producer. By choosing to spend money locally, you are able to provide purchasing power to those at the local level. When I was a young lawyer in the 1940s, I chose to live and work in the rural villages of Gujarat and used my skills to help others. In 1972, I established India’s first all-female cooperative the Self Employed Women's Cooperative (SEWA) for women who work in the informal sector.

Based on Ghandian principles of self-reliance and collective action, the Cooperative Bank of SEWA helps women by providing financial independence and raises their standing in society. The simple pot symbolises how supporting local industry provides an income to those in poverty and a means to educate their children. Ending poverty and promoting equality for women and girls are key to meeting both Goals 1 and 5 the Sustainable Development Goals and by supporting local workers you can work towards that.

And that’s what fairness means to me.

Ela Bhatt

What does fairness mean to you?

Join in the conversation by posting a picture of an object that represents fairness to you to our Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #ObjectOfFairness.

There is one value that underpins the Sustainable Development Goals that will set the humanitarian agenda for the next 15 years: fairness.


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