Fellow Since 2008
This profile was prepared when Gabriela Frers was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Gabriela is pioneering a certification stamp for handicraft products that will allow local artisans to charge premium prices and thus earn a living wage. By guaranteeing that products are made using traditional methods, the stamp will also reinforce cultural heritage and identity. Gabriela noticed that unlike organic food, no certification process existed in the handicraft market and it was being flooded by mass-produced knockoffs that keep prices low, and prevent producers from earning earn fair wages. Through her membership in the IFAT, one of the largest associations in the world, Gabriela established international contacts and started a pilot program between an artisan organization she founded, Station A, a regional artisan network she founded, The Mercosul Solidarity Space (MSS), and distributers in Spain and Germany. Based on the pilot, Gabriela and her partners developed a proposal that was unanimously approved by IFAT in July 2007, thus creating a handicrafts category and global approval for a certification stamp. This stamp will reaffirm artisans’ cultural identities by placing a premium on traditionally produced products. Presently, Gabriela is working with the IFAT network to establish regulating procedures to ensure the certification stamp is a commercial success. In July 2008, her team established monitoring standards and began working on modifying the original proposal. Gabriela also works closely with local artisans through Station A and MSS to see how her work is affecting them and to ensure that cultural identity is encouraged and preserved. Once the certification is implemented it will be one of the replicable models imaginable. Using IFAT’s global network, the stamp could reach hundreds of thousands of producers within a short time and establish fair wages. Like organic foods, it is also poised to transform consumer demand by making authentic handicraft products more desirable despite premium prices because they are recognized as fair trade products.