Reflections by Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard, Assistant Communications Officer at WFTO-Europe

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Badou is a village in Western Togo close to Ghana, a region that produces cocoa and coffee. A company Gebana is investing here to raise awareness about organic and Fair Trade productions. Last summer, I came to Badou in an old mini bus full of locals. We drove up and down the twisty mountain roads. The roads went through rainforests passing small villages of clay houses. We arrived in the center of Badou and from there we had to take motor bikes on sandy bumpy paths, also through the rainforest. Every time we passed a small village, local children playing outside would sing “Yovo Yovo Bonsoir” and wave at us. We stopped by a mountain where we met a local man in tall rubber boots. The owner of a cocoa plant who was going to show us his small industry. We went by foot into the forest, passed rice fields and began to see cocoa- and banana trees. The owner proudly explained us when cocoa fruits were ripe and he plugged one that was too old. We had to cross small streams and rivers with slippery stones. As I was nervous, the owner carried me when crossing. On the way up, we met some local children and parents happily hiking. The farmer plugged mini bananas that cannot be compared to the ones I have had in Europe. On top, more families were playing by a waterfall. Many of them seemed to be visitors to the area. We went down again, where we saw a school and small tree houses in which the cocoa was stored.

I was with a friend, a local who was born and raised in Badou and had made his way to the capital of Togo, Lomé, to go to college. If it wasn’t for him, I would not have had the pleasure to have this unique experience. What was so special about this place was the feeling of community. Everyone took care of each other, everyone took care of me as their guest.

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I will probably never be able to visit the other kind of cocoa plants that West Africa hosts. The reality here is very different and so heart breaking that I could never be aloud access to witness it with my own eyes. But many of us have watched the documentary “the Dark Side of Chocolate” which reveals how cocoa slavery in Ivory Coast is a reality and not just a rumor as excused by companies and government officials.

In these cocoa plants, you will find human rights violations starting with child labor. Not only are children employed and prevented from going to school, losing their childhood. They work with unsafe tasks such as climbing trees, doing heavy lifting, working with dangerous tools and pesticides often injuring them. The work is hard and lasts all day. They are beaten and whipped. The food is cheap and doesn’t provide the right nutrition. They don’t receive any payment.

The documentary shows how children end in these situations through human trafficking. Children will be tricked into coming to work in the plants with fake promises, or the children’s families are tricked into selling their child. In some cases, children are even kidnapped. Those who try to escape are being beaten.

This is slavery.

Fair Trade chocolate is slave free chocolate. Fair Trade chocolate adheres to the Fair Trade Principles: No child labor, no forced labor, good working conditions, fair payment etc. You make a massive difference when you buy chocolate from organizations that are guaranteed by WFTO such as GEPA and Bouga Cacao.

Yet, I have too often heard people state that Fair Trade chocolate problematically is more expensive. Even though this is not always correct, I have to ask: You will might save a euro but does it provide more value?

There is slave chocolate and there is slave free chocolate. Which value do you prefer?

U-landsU-landsforeningen Svalerne Logoforeningen Svalerne in Aarhus was founded in 1973. The national association – The Swallows in Denmark – was founded in 1963. In the first twenty years of our existence the national association send volunteers to Bangladesh and India for helping poor people. Today we support grass root organizations in those countries.

Parallel to this U-landsforeningen Svalerne in Aarhus has been involved with Fair Trade producers in developing countries. One of our founders was volunteer in Bangladesh where she started a handicraft project for women (later handed over to CORR-the Jute Works) – that’s how we got involved in Fair Trade. The Fair Trade Gruppen activity started as one of several workgroups under U-landsforeningen Svalerne in Aarhus. We started in the 70s with importing goods from CORR-The Jute Works in Bangladesh. The foundation is to practice “Fair Trade”. The main part of the import is still from Bangladesh but also from Chile and other countries.

The overshadowing objective is to help in fighting suffering and injustice in the world. We do import and sell mainly handicrafts from developing countries. The import is from producer groups that are active in fighting poverty, suppression and underdevelopment. The trade is on terms that secure the producers a fair pay for their labor. It is the goal to promote the alternative trade with goods from developing countries. Any surplus from this trade is used to promote this form of trading.

Click here to go to their website!

 

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Today is the World Fair Trade Day where Agents for Change from all over the world will honor Fair Trade, our way to achieve sustainable development. For this day, fair traders, consumers, policy makers and advocates form human chains to symbolize solidarity and commitment to people and the planet.

“This day we celebrate the world we wish to be! A world where people all over the world no matter who they are and what they do have the same rights and the same opportunities. We celebrate a world where fairness and global justice are the leading principles of political acts, a world where Fair Trade is the normal rule. But, in this day, we also go further than dreaming and show how all together we can make this fair world come true. We are the agent for change. With our actions, our daily choices we can shape the future of our society. Therefore, join our movement, our human chain and help us promote Fair Trade as a key driver of a fair and sustainable world” says the WFTO-Europe Coordinator, Francesca Giubilo.

This year, the WFTO network puts attention of how we are Agents for Change. We believe that everyone can be an Agent for Change and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We have the power to create change, not just as policy makers and advocates, but also as consumers with the small choices we make in our everyday life. When you support Fair Trade you help eliminate poverty, discrimination and other human rights violations.

Last night, WFTO-Europe celebrated this day together with other actors from the Fair Trade Movement at Café BOOM in Brussels. Here, we had the chance to form a human chain to show that we are all linked giving every one of us the power to be Agents for Change. We also took up the Fairtrade Challenge by sharing Fair Trade chocolate with all attendees.

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During the event, participants were asked how they are Agents for Change. Participants came with a wide range of examples on how you can be an Agent for Change even with small efforts. People stated that they buy Fair Trade products and presents, attend Fair Trade events and support Fair Trade campaigns. For example, an attendee answered that she is a “Fair Trade chocaholic” and another attendee claimed to have been drinking half of the global Fair Trade coffee production. But even in small doses, purchasing Fair Trade coffee has a massive impact. Learn why here.

Follow the World Fair Trade Day and Agents for Change campaign on our Twitter. Learn how you can be an Agent for Change and make a real difference in this world here.

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By Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard

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Over a month ago, Peru was hit by heavy floods due to climate changes. Heavy rains resulting in over flooding that damaged houses and bridges resulting in the death of over 60 people killed and making thousands of people homeless.

Our member FairMail works in Peru where they provide photography classes to disadvantaged teenagers, old enough to adhere to the laws of child labour. FairMail uses the teenager’s pictures in their production of cards and give the photographer 50% of the profit made from the picture. In this way, teenagers can finance their own education and contribute to the household finances.

Due to the floods, the office had to close for two weeks whilst the roads were closed resulting in cancelled classes. But this did not stop FairMail’s dream of “a world in which ALL adolescents have equal opportunities to educate and develop themselves.”

Two teenager’s homes were sadly severely damaged with a lack of money for reconstruction in the family. So instead of carrying out photography classes, the FailMail team organized support meetings and help with reconstruction of the damaged houses. They also dedicated a day to help distribute water, food and clothes to different areas.

We had to cancel FairMail’s photography lessons in the days after the flooding as the office wasn’t accessible. But even when the roads re-opened it felt self-centered to have the teenagers work on their photographic ideas when there was so much human suffering so close by. FairMail founder Janneke came up with the idea to grasp the opportunity to open the teenagers’ world to the opportunity to volunteering for the flood relief efforts that were taking place. For example by helping out at the logistics center were the emergency aid was being distributed. Afterwards all the team members shared in the group how they had been affected. When Angelica and Julissa told about the damage to their homes the other FairMail teenagers immediately suggested to go and help them out with the start of the reconstruction efforts. As director of FairMail it makes me very proud that these teenagers reacted this way to help out their affected team members. This way showing that they truly internalized one of FairMail’s main values: goodpanionship.” Peter den Hond from FairMail said.

This case shows how committed WFTO-Europe members are to work better world, and how everyone can be a part of creating change.

Do you want to help create change too? Learn how you can become an Agent for Change.

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By Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard

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World Fair Trade Day (WFTDay) is approaching and we are excited for this at WFTO-Europe! This year, we will celebrate this with other actors from our network and from the Fair Trade Movement. Here, we will form a human chain to symbolize how we together can make the world fairer.

We are all linked

We believe that everyone can be an Agent for Change and that can all create change together. The WFTO-Europe network strives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) through the 10 Fair Trade Principles. We work to eradicate poverty by providing opportunities to disadvantaged producers, and we work to fight global warming by ensuring productions that respect the environment. But we cannot do it without you. Without customers that buy Fair Trade products, Fair Trade cannot exist. Therefore, every purchasing decision you make has an impact.

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Be an Agent for Change

Every little effort counts. When you buy Fair Trade chocolate you ensure not to support child labor which too often is the reality in cocoa plants. When you buy Fair Trade coffee you ensure not to support unfair wages and dehumanizing working conditions which too often characterizes how it is to work in coffee plants. When you buy Fair Trade clothes, you ensure consideration of the planet and gender equality which are often sacrificed in the textile industry.

It is not easy to make the world better but with a little effort everyone can contribute to this change. If you are interested in photography, you might find FairMail interesting. If you are interested in beauty, check out Fair Trade beauty products for example from Karethic. If you are interested in arts, surely some of our members that import handcrafts like Siyabonga will be interesting for you.

You can certainly find relations to Fair Trade in your daily life. Check our different members to find products that are interesting to you, or see which members are close to you in your own country. You can also see if you live in a Fair Trade town and how to support this.

If you have difficulties relating, ask yourself and learn about the story behind your clothes next time you get dressed. Ask and learn where your food comes from next time you eat a meal. Or even ask where the kitchen towels come from when doing the dishes. Consider how it has been produced and which impact it has compared to alternative products and brands.

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Together we can create a fairer world

Even the smallest things that we normally take for granted mean something. Join us as an Agent for Change and celebrate World Fair Trade Day with us! Stay updated on our Facebook and Twitter to see how you can be an Agent for Change and be a part of creating a real difference in the world.

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By Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard

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Yesterday, the 27th of April, the European Parliament adopted the report “EU flagship initiative on the garment sector”. In the lights of the Rana Plaza Anniversary, the report encourages the EU to engage in actions of solving the alarming level of human rights abuses in the garment sector with a focus on three dimensions: Decent work and social standards, transparency and traceability, and a legally binding framework.

This is a positive step towards a fairer garment sector supply chain and a fairer world to people and the planet. Only with a transparent and traceable supply chain, can we ensure that our clothes are produced with integrity.

To promote this, an event was held on the 26th at the European Parliament, “Remembering Rana Plaza – how can we create fair and sustainable supply chains in the garment sector?”. WFTO-Europe was present with colleagues from the Fair Trade family and other actors such as Sarah Ditty, Head of policy at Fashion Revolution and Amirul Haque Amin, President of National Garment Workers Federation in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The event turned out highly successful considering that the majority of the votes were for adopting the report.

In alignment with the report, the Clean Clothes Campaign and 79 organizations, including WFTO-Europe, called on the European Commission to make it legally binding for companies to make their production details public. Read the letter “High time for the European Commission to impose transparency in the garment supply chain” here.

The events took place during Fashion Revolution Week where consumers ask “Who Made My Clothes?” across the world to stress the critical need for transparency in the garment supply chain. Read more about WFTO-Europe’s connection to the revolution here.

The Fashion Revolution is growing and making an enormous impact every day, but it relies on the help from all kinds of actors: organizations, companies, consumers and politicians.

Get involved and join the revolution! See how here.

logoThe Scottish Fair Trade Forum was established in 2007 by a group of Fair Trade campaigners, Scotland-based non-governmental organisations and civic society organisations and some Fair Trade businesses supported by the then Scottish Executive, to promote the cause of Fair Trade in Scotland and, in particular, help secure Fair Trade Nation Status for Scotland.

The Scottish Fair Trade Forum seeks to work to help make Scotland a nation that is a global leader in challenging global poverty and recognises the dignity and rights of producers through a commitment to fairness in international trading.

Scotland achieved Fair Trade Nation status in February 2013 and was successfully reassessed in March 2017. Scotland was the second nation after Wales to achieve this status. While we have much to celebrate, our work must continue to build on our achievements to embed the values of Fair Trade in all aspects of Scottish society.

As an independent body with membership open to any individual or organisation interested in meaningfully promoting Fair Trade in Scotland, we aim for a membership base that reflects the diversity of Scottish society – an essential part of being a Fair Trade Nation.

Click here to see their website or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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It is time to bring another member in the spotlight. This time, it falls simultaneously to Fashion Revolution Week as the perfect occasion for us to showcase our member from Denmark, Elvang, who “creates textiles with integrity”:

 

A lot has changed since Lasse and Tina Elvang brought back Peruvian alpaca blankets from their backpacking trip to Peru in 2002. They fell in love with the beauty, softness and luxury of the alpaca textiles that  they found. But they were also overwhelmed by the poverty they experienced around them. They decided to find a unique way to unite a Scandinavian design approach with the pure elegance of the alpaca yarn that would benefit the region in Peru they had visited.

Driven by the knowledge gained from working with alpaca came the passion for creating other home textiles with carefully selected producers using the finest fibres available.

Elvang strive to create designs that stand the test of time always using the most durable yarn qualities that can withstand everyday use. The current collection includes textiles for your kitchen, table and bath while constantly creating a new look in alpaca cushions and throws as well as luxury scarves.

But perhaps what Elvang are most proud of is what have been done for the region of Peru. Elvang has created more than 200 fulltime jobs and educational programmes with their suppliers that have benefited the shepherds, home weavers, knitters and their families. All whilst sustaining an ecological balance and caring for the animals that create the very fibre they take pride in offering to you.

And that’s why Elvang Denmark says: “we create textiles with integrity”.

The aim is to be able to always look the customers in the eyes. Elvang´s clients are very quality conscious and they choose products where design – quality and material all come together. Positive feedback from clients, who have an Elvang product, which they bought 10 years ago and the product still  looks new, is very rewarding.

Today, Elvang operate worldwide, among others on the Scandinavian markets, Germany, France, Holland, The States, Japan and Australia and participate in various trade fairs around Europe. This season they met customers from all over the world at Ambiente in Germany and at Maison & Objet in France. To meet clients and to present new designs is always very exciting for Elvang.

Textiles is Elvang´s universe and they continually extend the product range with focus on products made of only the best possible quality.

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Read more about Elvang on their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Learn more about why Elvang’s work is so important for society and its relation to Fashion Revolution here.

 

By Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard

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Today, the 24th of April, is the Fashion Revolution Day which marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster. A factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed and killed 1,138 people due to unsafe production facilities. The factory hosted clothing productions of popular fast fashion brands, and its collapse is a main reference to criticism of the fashion industry.

The fashion industry is one of the most criticized for executing unethical business practices being the second most polluting industry worldwide and with heavy human rights violations in the production stage such as those committed at the tragedy at Rana Plaza. Implementing a sustainable textile supply chain – transparent and traceable, ensuring protection of the people and the planet – remains a challenge due to multiple factors. Among others, our choices to go for fast fashion brands.

As stated in the Fashion Revolution report “Fashion Revolution Fanzine #001 Money Fashion Power”:

“Factories around the world are being pushed to deliver ever-larger quantities of clothing faster and cheaper. As a result, factories routinely make employees work extra hours, often without overtime pay or other benefits in return. The pressure on factories to deliver is so intense that workers are often subjected to intimidation, harassment, coercion, pain and injury and are even restricted from taking short breaks to the toilet. The people who make our clothes cannot be paid fairly through this process. This is the grim reality it takes to deliver our desire for ‘choice’ when we’re out shopping.”

Fashion Revolution is at the forefront of pushing the industry for a switch that eliminates these critical issues. After the disaster in 2013, a revolution was formed when this global movement was founded through a civil society organization based in the UK. The organization advocates on the topic with a yearly Fashion Revolution Week, starting on the Rana Plaza Tragedy anniversary day, as a part of their global “Who Made My Clothes” Campaign. This week highlights the topic of traceability and transparency in the textile supply chain with the involvement of consumers and actors from the industry. Via social media, organizations will ask companies “Who made my clothes?” whilst producers will answer “I made your clothes”.

The campaign sends out a clear message to adopt a responsible consumption and embrace more ethical business practices.

WFTO-Europe together with WFTO is supporting Fashion Revolution to promote the Fair Trade Principles that too often are violated in the textile supply chain and to bring Fair Trade Fashion forward.

This is our time to show to the fashion industry as well as to public institutions and international bodies that immediate actions must be taken to solve these appalling abuses.

Read the campaign’s official site and join the revolution here.

By Eva Marie Wüst Vestergaard

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WFTO-Europe supports Earth Day 2017 on the 22nd of April. This year, the campaign focuses on “Environmental & Climate Literacy” focusing on education of climate change. This relates to our work on educating on responsible production and consumption.

WFTO-Europe’s network works around the 10 Fair Trade Principles of which number 10 stands “Respect for the Environment”. This means that all of our members that produce Fair Trade products live up to strict requirements to protect the environment in their production. Examples are maximizing the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources and buying locally, reducing energy consumption, minimize greenhouse gasses emissions and waste as well as using organic or low pesticide use productions methods.

Our members that buy and import Fair Trade products must prioritize sustainably managed sources and achieve the least overall impact on the environment possible. All members must use recycled or biodegradable materials and sea dispatching to the extent possible.

Herewith, we can ensure that products with our labels are environmentally friendly. Consumers who choose WFTO guaranteed products hereby help protect the environment. In our network, we see it as our duty to promote our members’ products among consumers to enhance a sustainable consumption that protects people and the planet. In this way, we see ourselves as Agents for Change by showing consumers how they are Agents for Change when choosing Fair Trade products.

Through the Fair Trade Principles, we work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Our Principle number 10 is directly linked to Goals number 12 and 13 on sustainable consumption and production as well as climate change. When supporting Fair Trade, you help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals!

Everyone can be an Agent for Change. Together, we can all create the change we need to protect people and the planet.

Find out much more about how to become an Agent for Change by following our Agent for Change Campaign which we launch in connection to the World Fair Trade Day on the 13th of May 2017. See the event and campaign page here.