The Dharma Door: About the Makers
The Dharma Door Snapshot
Demographics: Women from low socio-economic areas in remote and rural Bangladesh
Founder: Shannon Sheedy
Products: Hand-woven baskets, homewares and accessories
Materials: Jute, seagrass, hemp
Values: Fair Trade, empowering women, sustainability
Certifications: Most of the NGO producer groups they partner with are WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) certified
The Dharma Door was established in 2004 by Australian designer, Shannon Sherry, with the goal to empower people so they can lift themselves out of poverty. The company works with not-for-profit organisations in Bangladesh who employ women artisans in rural areas. Most of these organisations are WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) members, which requires them to provide evidence of how they meet or are working towards the 10 Principles of Fair Trade. By partnering with organisations that work within the artisan communities, the locals are able identify their own needs, rather than have preconceived ideas imposed onto them.
The Dharma Door works in collaboration with the artisans to ensure that the makers have a voice in determining what kinds of products are made. The team in Australia are in contact with the maker groups on a regular basis. Each design takes into consideration the raw materials used, the artisans' skills, and the appeal to a global market.
The Dharma Door are a shining example of a Fair Trade business. Their focus on beautiful, considered designs and well made products, in combination with effective marketing, helps ensure a sustainable income for their artisans. In line with the true meaning of Fair Trade, The Dharma Door ultimately operates as a business with a social conscience rather than a charity. The Fair Trader wholeheartedly supports this approach and believes this is the most effective way to help people exit the cycle of poverty.
"The more we trade, the more artisans we are able to provide sustainable work for. Through this approach, we are able to achieve the greatest impact."
- Shannon Sheedy, Founder
The majority of The Dharma Door's products are made from jute. Fondly known as 'the golden fibre', jute comes from the Corchorus olitorius and Corchorus capsularis plants. Jute grows predominantly in Bangladesh, and is the same fibre that is used to make burlap and hession. Jute fibres are very sturdy and strong, and they are built to last, which makes jute the perfect material for products that are used regularly like baskets, bags and placemats.
How is jute sustainable?
- Jute grows very quickly, reaching maturation within 4 to 6 months of it being planted. Harvested twice a year, it is a highly renewable fibre
- Cultivating jute in crop rotations enriches the fertility of the soil for the next crop
- Jute does not require much manual irrigation because it grows naturally in tropical areas where rainfall is high
- Raw jute is washed in boiling water to kill any insects that may be present, making it entirely chemical-free
- The jute plant consumes carbon dioxide and releases oxygen at a rate much higher than trees. A hectare of jute plants consumes about 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide and releases 11 tonnes of oxygen. By removing carbon dioxide from the air, jute helps fight climate change
- Jute fibre is 100% biodegradable and compostable. It typically biodegrades in 1 - 2 years
The Dharma Door use hemp to make their wash cloths and other products. Hemp grows naturally in the Himalayas and has been used for thousands of years to make clothing, rope and building materials. Hemp fibre is derived from the outer layers of the long woody stems of the Sativa plant.
How is hemp sustainable?
- Hemp uses less water compared cotton and also has a higher yield
- Hemp plants mature very quickly - in only 3 to 4 months
- Hemp is 100% biodegradable and compostable
- Not only does hemp require fewer pesticides and no herbicides to produce, but it also helps remove toxins from the soil
- The fabric made of hemp fibres is breathable, durable and naturally anti-microbial
The People Behind the Products