Ethics, Empowerment and Employment

Rema Sivaram, an alumna of U.S. Consulate Chennai’s Women in Indian Social Entrepreneurship Network, owns company Fairkonnect offering sustainable, ethically sourced products.

By Michael Gallant

October 2023

Ethics, Empowerment and Employment

Rema Sivaram (center) founded Fairkonnect in 2016 with the aim of empowering weavers and artisans, and ensuring fair treatment, dignified wages and improved working conditions. (Photograph courtesy Rema Sivaram)

Co-founder Rema Sivaram chooses all items on sale at Ethic Attic, a Bengaluru-based store, with sustainability, fair trade and ethical production in mind. Rema, a social entrepreneur and alumna of the U.S. Consulate General Chennai’s Women in Indian Social Entrepreneurship Network (WISEN) program, collaborates with students, research scholars and designers around the world to support the ethical creation of fabric and clothing.

Rema’s store is the public face of Fairkonnect, her organization that promotes organic, sustainable and fair-trade fabrics. Fairkonnect also trains and employs women from low-income backgrounds in Bengaluru through its social initiative Project Hennu.

Seed of sustainability

As she built a career as an entrepreneur, Rema worked closely with textile artisans and weavers and learned that skilled workers are often treated unfairly. “Witnessing their struggles firsthand served as a powerful motivation to take action,” she says.

Rema founded Fairkonnect in 2016 with the core purpose of empowering weavers and artisans and “ensuring fair treatment, dignified wages and improved working conditions,” she says. “Through Fairkonnect, I aimed to make a positive impact on the lives of these talented individuals and contribute to the growth of sustainable and ethical practices in the textile industry.”

Empowering changemakers

Now, as an entrepreneur in the world of sustainable textiles, Rema finds no shortage of inspiration in her ongoing work. “The opportunity to contribute to a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry is highly motivating and exhilarating,” she says, “and knowing that my work has the potential to impact the lives of artisans, weavers and the environment is a source of great excitement.”

In 2020, Rema was selected to participate in the WISEN program. She describes the program as a significant milestone in her journey as an entrepreneur, one that connected her with a community of like-minded women entrepreneurs, she says, and gave her lifelong friendships. “Beyond the connections I’ve made, WISEN has been an invaluable source of learning, presenting me with a multitude of opportunities to grow and excel,” she says. “Most importantly, the members of WISEN have become an unwavering support system, allowing me to openly discuss my challenges without any fear of judgment or intimidation.”

Rema finds great satisfaction in sharing her knowledge through workshops and talks, empowering her fellow entrepreneurs and forging a community among “like-minded changemakers,” she describes. “These interactions are immensely rewarding, as they offer me a sense of inspiring future leaders, fostering personal growth and creating positive change.”

Sustainable fashion

In the coming years, Rema hopes that Fairkonnect’s work will help the world adopt more sustainable practices and make the textile industry a global role model for integrity, quality and social responsibility. Rema also hopes her experiences can serve as a roadmap for other women and girls who want to make a difference.

“As women entrepreneurs, it is crucial to maintain a firm focus on our goals yet remain flexible and adaptable to navigate the ever-changing landscape of social entrepreneurship,” Rema says. “This balance allows for growth, innovation, and the ability to evolve our strategies and approaches as needed to create a lasting and impactful change.”

She encourages rising social entrepreneurs to believe in themselves, stay optimistic, and never allow anyone to undermine their potential. “Continuously seek knowledge and growth, and keep your passion burning brightly,” she says. “By doing so, you will naturally be driven to make positive changes and leave a lasting impact.”

Michael Gallant is a New York City-based writer, musician and entrepreneur.

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