The recent disaster in Bangladesh, in which over 800 people have been killed in a factory collapse, is a stark reminder to us all that someone will always pay the price for cheap clothes and merchandise. Sadly in this case so many people had to pay with their lives, whilst we can’t resist to endulge in bargain shopping.
When you spend your money, you have the power to make a difference to the world. With your buying choices you can either reinforce the status quo or support a better way of trading with artisans and producers in developing countries.
Fair Trade supports the ‘workforce’, which comprises of families and communities, and not the bosses and profit margins of big companies.
These smaller workforces tend to specialise in traditional craft techniques such as embroidery, block printing, jewellery making, or they may focus on working with a specific kind of material like wood, bamboo, stone or tin.
In recent times, using recycled materials in production has also become very popular; now we can choose not only gifts that have been fairly traded, but they are also eco-friendly.
Traditional crafts are being retained by families and communities that are passed down through each generation. Specialised embroidery techniques are still used in India today, which are applied to fair trade homeware such as cushions, throws and embellished bags or scarves. Women have the choice of doing this kind of work at home, while they can look after their young children.
When you buy Fair Trade certified products, you can rest assured that producers have been paid a fair wage, working conditions are safe and no children under the age of 16 are working. Money is also reinvested into the community to increase living standards, and emphasis is put on protecting the environment; the use of hazardous chemicals in production is greatly reduced or even avoided altogether.
The exceptional craftsmanship is another reason why I love fair trade. Since everything is made carefully by hand, it is in its own right a work of art. In addition, such a diverse range of products, materials and designs appeal to buyers, who also prefer paying reasonable prices compared with expensive celebrity designer products.
So not only is fair trade ethical, but because everything is handmade, it makes each item exclusive. And because producers are constantly modifying their designs, they retain the appeal and keep the range fresh and add innovative new products.
Not only is the character and charm of fair trade gifts appealing, but also the ethics supporting these communities, who have a fair chance to thrive and develop long-term economic stability.
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