Bethlehem, Palestine – On Friday, May 12th, the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) celebrated World Fair Trade Day by offering a workshop for local handicraft artisans on “Safety in the Workplace.” The workshop, co-organized by HCEF, Catholic Relief Services (CRS/JWBG), Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society (HLHCS), Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI), and Volontariato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo (VIS), hosted handicraft artisans from throughout the Bethlehem area to raise awareness about fair trade principles regarding working conditions.
Although small scale handicraft production has been an economic mainstay in the Bethlehem area for hundreds of years, many workshops have become hazardous workspaces, with dilapidated structures and out-of-date infrastructure threatening to close many family-owned businesses and significantly impacting the health of local artisans.
To address this issue, HCEF’s Handicraft Workshop Development (HWD) program provides heavily subsidized handicraft workshop renovations to artisans in need. The renovations allow local artisans to continue their centuries-long tradition of olivewood and mother-of-pearl carving in a healthy and safe environment, enabling them to protect their livelihoods, provide for their families, and ensure the continuation of this important local tradition. The renovations not only ensure that workers are protected, but also protect the local environment by minimizing the release of workshop toxins.
The workshop highlighted the major health and safety issues posed by current practices and encouraged workshop owners to take advantage of programs like HWD to support Fair Trade principles in their workshops. At the training, Mr. Khalil Hanania, HCEF Projects Engineer and one of the guest speakers, commented: “When we think of Fair Trade, we often think about the economic protections for producers, however, fair trade principles also protect workers from hazardous conditions, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that the people who contribute to our livelihoods are safe and healthy.”
The event took place at the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was attended by workshop owners and artisans, Fair Trade partners, journalists, and non-governmental organizations.
For more information about HCEF’s Handicraft Workshop Development program, please visit: https://hcef.org/programs/hrp/