I have been a passionate advocate of Fair Trade after working for 9 years with Mapuche weavers in the South of Chile and witnessing first-hand the harsh life and working conditions they face to survive. But the image I saw today on this link of a couple who lost their lives at one of the worst disasters of sweat shops in Bangladesh shocked the core of my being. Their embrace is such a symbol of humanity and yet they were working in one of the most inhuman industry existing today – the slavery of sweat shops that provide cheap production to countries like the USA and many others.
Slavery today is a hard thought but there you have it. Human beings treated worse than animals, with no hope of a better life for themselves or their children, just living to work – working to barely survive. I am sure you have read and heard plenty of the horrible news of what happened in Bangladesh. If that’s not the case, you can learn about it here and here.
So what are the options for buyers in the other side of the world that wish to avoid contributing to this nightmare of thousands of producers in the Southern hemisphere of the world? It can be difficult to find good options, but some ideas my hubby and I follow are these:
a) Reduce your shopping budget to what is essential for you and/or your family, avoiding senseless and self-focused shopping sprees and shaping your choices towards a most outward looking perspective – in order words, your goal is to be a good steward of the money you have been given, knowing how to administer it and use it for good purposes and ultimately, as any other gift, to use it for the glory of God.
b) Give second-hand a chance. The article “Why I Buy Second Hand” in the e-magazine Relevant sums up pretty much all I love about this idea. Please take a couple minutes to read it? Now, after you’ve read it, and in terms of options, they do exist, you must basically know what you’re looking for. Stores like Restore here http://is.gd/uWhixg or Goodwill here http://is.gd/2fZj7y have more than a few great items everyday. Also, have you been to antique stores? They have the most beautiful things at great prices!
c) Work with your community! Exchange/swap with your family, friends, church community anything, from clothes to household items in good conditions. It will not only provide you with what you need a zero or super low price but also it will allow you to develop friendships and inter-depend more on those around you.
d) Prefer Fair Trade stores (you can find some here http://is.gd/Jna9ua and find more here http://is.gd/e5MwSy) or online sellers that promote ethical trade (http://is.gd/9PJapJ). Sometimes this last option may be a tad more expensive than the other options but hey, it’s great quality and the producers are actually improving their lives with this trade instead of finding death. If you have a conscious budget, you’ll notice in time it’s worth it and also cost-effective 😉
A friend of mine also sent me this, especially for those of you lovers of apps:
I remembered an app I had posted a year or so ago that allows users to send an easy electronic letter to establishments to encourage them to look into where they source their products. I just went to their website and they have a list of manufacturers and gives them a rating (I think it has to do with their transparency). Anyway, here it is: http://www.free2work.org/ you can look at other things besides apparel. Electronics are another MAJOR issue – I used the app for a while and it was really easy. You can use the GPS feature and it will locate the stores near you and you can very easily send correspondence that will let manufacturers know that consumers care where our goods come from. Check it out.
All of these ideas will not solve the problem as long as there is a vast majority of people that still wants to buy cheap without caring about the producers. I do believe that small steps still count though and that’s why I promote this. Dare to make the difference, for the glory of God!
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”