Didi Bahini...Sisters Connecting Sisters

Didi Bahini partners with businesses and artisans in Nepal to market their handicrafts to North American consumers in a way that connects, inspires and expands Fair Trade.

“Didi Bahini” means sisters in Nepali and we see ourselves as a connector between Sisters in Nepal who make beautiful handicrafts and Sisters in North America who appreciate and enjoy the distinctive, quality pieces. There is a current of love and appreciation that binds these women in partnership and equal exchange.

As a member of the Fair Trade Federation, we are committed to a vision of a world in which justice, equity, and sustainable development are at the heart of trade structures and practices so that everyone, through their work, can maintain a decent and dignified livelihood. We want to see everyone live lives of joy, self-respect and self-sustainability.

The Beginning

Didi Bahini was the brainchild of Jane Gragtmans. Jane worked in international development for years, living in several developing countries around the world. She lived for three years in Kathmandu, Nepal, and enjoyed visiting small shops throughout the city. The jewelry pieces she purchased from Nepali artisans as gifts were so admired that Jane brought suitcases full to Canada to sell to family and friends.

Eventually, she created the business to carry on the sales when she moved back to Canada permanently. Didi Bahini was officially founded in 2006 and Jane meticulously worked with her Nepali partners to verify that their work complied with Fair Trade Federation standards, and the business was invited to join the FTF in 2008.

Didi Bahini grew under Jane’s leadership, serving online consumers, small stores dedicated to fair trade principles and shoppers who looked forward to her appearances at fairs and shows. Eventually Jane felt pulled to work in the fair trade industry in another way with Inspired Retail Connections, and she prepared to sell her business.

At the same time, on the other end of Canada, Margaret Tiveron was looking for a way to make a bigger difference in fair trade. Purchasing a business wasn’t what she had in mind, but when Margaret connected with Jane by phone in 2019, a synergy was created that led to an easy, gracious and respectful transfer of the business, and the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

The Next Phase

To really understand this business, I visited Nepal in February 2020 to meet my artisan partners and see how they work. And then the pandemic hit. All of Nepal went into lockdown – the products I ordered for delivery in March didn’t even ship until August!

At this time, Didi Bahini is working with the customers Jane worked with, and at the same time building new partnerships. I’m exploring new products with the artisan partners in Nepal as I build relationships with these resilient and creative people. I am so blessed to have the support of the consultant Jane worked with in Nepal. Dibeev Shrestha is committed to supporting the artisans and Nepal, and he works with my partners to ensure that things go smoothly with my orders. He is smart and savvy, working with the partners to improve their businesses as he works on behalf of Didi Bahini. He also knows where to find the best momo dumplings in Kathmandu!

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