Sandler Trade LLC is helping women artisans in Timor-Leste to export their products to the U.S. market

Located in Southeast Asia, between Indonesia and Australia, Timor-Leste is a country with a long history of being controlled by external influences. In 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste became a sovereign state. This year Timor-Leste celebrates the 10thanniversary of the restoration of independence and the 10th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Timor-Leste and the United States.

There are many challenges. Half of the country’s 1.1 million population lives below the poverty line and 80% of the country’s residents unemployed. To address these issues, the government released its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030 that gives careful consideration to the economic potential of the country’s human, natural, and cultural resources over the next two decades.

One of the sectors leading the way for a better future for the people of Timor-Leste is the artisan sector.

The country has maintained a strong cultural identity. Today, groups of artisans produce many traditional craft items specific to Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste’s artisans use unique indigenous style and skills. Timor-Leste has cultural traditions, natural resources, and agricultural products that provide raw material inputs for the production of many handcrafts, which have been largely sold to tourists, aid workers, and the United Nations forces in Timor-Leste.

The range of specific handicrafts from Timor-Leste includes basketry, jewelry, woodcarvings, and furniture, ceramics and, especially a wide range of handcrafted personal accessory and home decor items made from a hand-woven cloth called Tais.


Purse made from a tais

The women of nearby island, Atauro, use extensive embroidery on handmade cotton to make colorful dolls, purses, bags, book covers, and wall hangings. Animal hats of recycled T-shirts are also their specialty.

Unfortunately, handicrafts from Timor-Leste are not exported overseas in significant quantities, despite their beautiful designs and exceptional quality.

Sandler Trade LLC seeks to provide support to Timor-Leste’s artisans so that they can market, produce, and sell their products in global markets. This will have a positive impact on artisans, and will help to foster women empowerment, as many of these artisans are women who use the money they make from artisanal sales to support their families.

The goal of this initiative is to create jobs, increase income, and help to stimulate other economic sectors such as agriculture and tourism. Sandler Trade LLC has been working on this initiative since January 2012. In March, Marideth Sandler, the CEO of Sandler Trade LLC, travelled to Dili (the capitol city of Timor-Leste) to meet with the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, strategic partners the Alola Foundation and Alola Esperansa, French and Japanese handcraft and coffee exporters, Timor Aid, ConocoPhillips, and local artisans including Rui Carvahlo, Sheila Boston of Jeitu Design, and Bonecas de Atauro.

The project is progressing well. Visit this website on June 7 to see the initiative’s recent news. Sandler Trade LLC is focused on assisting local artisans from the different villages in Timor-Leste by bringing their products to the U.S. market.

For additional information on the products and the initiative, please contact Andreas Zongo at

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