In May of this year, Marideth Sandler and Anna Rose Ott of Sandler Trade LLC began work on a baseline market study with The Asia Foundation. The overall project, Women Weaving a Better Future through Better Business, is funded by the U.S. Embassy in Dili and also involves two implementing partners, The Alola Foundation and Empreza Di’ak.
Sandler Trade LLC previously worked together with The Alola Foundation in 2013 to premiere (and sell out) hand-crafted “tais” and “tais” products of the Feto Forte women weavers’ group in Quelicai, Timor Leste, at the internationally acclaimed Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Ms. Sandler has focused on expanding Timor Leste’s exports into the U.S. market since 2007, including offering training to pertinent government officials in 2012 and marketing Timorese products to U.S. Fair Trade Federation and other U.S. importers of handmade items.
Sandler Trade LLC’s first project tasks with The Asia Foundation were to develop a tablet survey of women weavers and male-owned businesses in seven rural districts in Timor Leste, along with a roadmap for weaver focus group discussions in each location. The survey
s and focus group discussions began in July.
Marideth Sandler spent two weeks in-country in late June-early July talking with women’s weaving coordinators and groups, NGOs and retailers helping to produce and sell tais products, local tais product fashion designers, and the newly growing sector of tais product
In addition, Ms. Sandler spoke with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry about their work to certify and list each district’s tais designs on UN registries. The Ministry has also offered training and design assistance to individuals interested in manufacturing tais-highlighted clothing and shoes. The Ministry’s training efforts and providing facilities for a weekend tais market have resulted in the expansion of local as well as tourist demand for tais products, thus supporting the expanding tais product manufacturing sector.
Sandler Trade LLC expects to finish early this fall its baseline snapshot and recommendations of next steps to grow the weaving and related industries.