Irani Sen graduated from university in 1966 with a physics degree. Though she dreamed of becoming the next Madam Curie, her parents had other plans for her. They arranged her marriage in 1966 and she was forbidden from continuing her studies. In 1970, when her son began school, Irani began to get involved in social work with an emphasis on economic self-sufficiency for disadvantaged women. Irani started working full time on the issue when her husband threw her out of her home. Since then, Irani has been inspired to work to help others by providing independent consultation to foundations and alternative trade organizations. In the late 80s, Irani began working with the Craft Resource Center (CRC) to provide assistance to artisans.
CRC helps informally organized artisan groups to develop businesses by providing product development, marketing, finance and export assistance to 15 individual groups involving approximately 15,000 artisans. CRC staff see the organization as a partner in artisans’ work and growth – they assist the groups where assistance is appropriate and try to steer artisans to local markets as much as possible. Within her broader work, Sen also works as an independent consultant for socio-economic development with 350 projects in Asia.
Sen said, “The best thing fair trade gives [artisans] is the continuity of work… and with the continuity comes the basic security... With that security they can develop, they can plan and then we try to motivate them for education, health [and] education for their children.”
Sen continued, “Think twice before you buy anything… to make sure what you buy benefits somebody. So, you take a few seconds more when you go for your shopping and find the right product at the right place… That goes a long way.”