Are we there yet?! It’s one of those irritating, naggy questions children ask on long road trips. Sometimes it comes just one suburb from home.
Well, as this year’s Fair Trade Fortnight launches, I suppose ‘Are we there yet?’ isn’t a bad question to ask.
The Salvation Army signed up to a ‘Fair Trade policy’ back in September 2006. Like a lot of important policy changes, this one took a while to shift good intentions into practice, but as the years have sped by, Fair Trade has become a stronger governing principle in the decisions we make as an organisation. It certainly seems to be influencing the personal shopping decisions of individual Salvationists, which is great to see!
My hope is that we’re not stepping back from this journey. We need to keep on choosing ‘fair’ when we shop. And we need to keep on agitating those who sell, by asking, ‘Do you stock Fair Trade products?’ And, if they don’t, by making it clear that we prefer companies that do offer Fair Trade options.
By now, most of us hopefully know that when we buy Fair Trade, we can be confident that as much of the profits as possible go direct to the workers and their families in poorer countries instead of being siphoned off to line the pockets of the rich (and often off-shore) owners. And that means we’re helping people access good things that most of us take for granted, like health services and education. Now that’s fair, wouldn’t you say?
There are lots of things in life the average punter doesn’t have much power over, even in a democratic country like New Zealand. For instance, I’m pretty hot under the collar at the moment that the Government seems to be essentially selling legislation changes by letting Sky City build a convention centre in exchange for 500 more pokie machines at their Auckland casino. That doesn’t seem either fair or right to me!
And that’s part of the attraction of Fair Trade—it’s essentially a fair and democratic system that puts power in the purchaser’s wallet.
Salvation Army social justice advocate Chris Frazer writes compellingly about buying power in a recent paper on child exploitation (‘Scanning for Integrity’, online here).
Chris says, ‘While, at present, many children have no choice but to help produce many of the goods that fill our supermarket shelves and shopping malls, consumers do have the option. The power is within our wallet, to push for positive, life-giving change by choosing products guaranteed not to have been produced in exploitative circumstances.’
Are we ‘there yet’ with Fair Trade? No, we’re not. But we will be if we keep moving in the right direction, and if we invite more people along for the ride. Fair Trade Fortnight, from 5-20 May, is a great opportunity to do just that.
Choose fair and spread the word about the life-changing difference Fair Trade is making for farmers, workers, families and communities in developing countries.
By Christina Tyson (abridged from War Cry 5 May 2012 p3)
For great ideas about how to make the most of Fair Trade Fortnight, head online to www.fairtrade.org.nz.
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