What is Fair Trade?
The currently accepted definition of Fair Trade has been agreed by FINE, an informal association of four international fair trade networks (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, World Fair Trade Organization, Network of European Worldshops and European Fair Trade Association):
Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair Trade Organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade. Fair Trade products are produced and traded in accordance with these principles — wherever possible verified by credible, independent assurance systems.
In my own words, fair trade is not only paying a higher price to the artisan or farmer for a product (although it is that), but it's a way to become involved in changing someone's world a little at a time. Along with a cup of coffee, you might be buying a new well and access to clean drinking water, with that necklace also comes a child's education, and with that Christmas card you're giving hope to the person who made it along with joy to the recipient. It's a win-win situation!
Especially with handicraft products, you are giving someone in the developing world a chance to earn their own income and not just depend on handouts or charity. They now have a chance to create their own future and permanently work to raise their own standard of living.