Promoting economic justice


Kirsten Jerme

In the outskirts of Mombasa, Kenya, a woman named Cyprine Agan earns twice the average wages creating African jewelry to be sold to Fair Trade vendors. She also attends adult education classes and receives medical aid, benefits rarely offered in her impoverished region.

Halfway around the world from this craft workshop is the Guatemalan organization Manos Campesinas (Farmers’ Hands), combining the efforts of more than 1,000 farmers who earn living wages with benefits by producing coffee for the Fair Trade label Equal Exchange. Such Fair Trade Certified products, including handicrafts, coffee, chocolate, tea, sugar, and certain fruits, ensure that the artisans and farmers receive living wages and that efforts are made to protect the environment. Fair Trade provides economic justice to farmers and artisans across the developing world, from the Americas to Africa to Asia, while offering an alternative for consumers who do not wish to support sweatshop labor. As college students, most of us lack the money and power that it would take to eliminate economic injustice. If we had it our way, all trade would be ethical and all people would be able to provide for themselves and their families. While buying a cup of Fair Trade coffee or a fairly traded craft does not save the whole world, it does send a powerful message. It says that you will not exploit the cheap labor of the developing world. It says that you will go out of your way to avoid purchasing products made by children in sweatshops. It says that you care about people and the conditions in which they live and work.

So what can you do to show that you care about these artisans, farmers, and countless other fair trade partners? To start, you can check out MPIRG’s Fair Trade Bazaar this Saturday, December 3rd from 3:00 to 7:00 pm in the basement of the Campus Center. Vendors from Fair Trade Organizations across the Twin Cities will offer an array of unique gifts, music, coffee, chocolate, and other festive treats for purchase, as well as a plethora of information for anyone interested in Fair Trade. Scott Patterson, the CEO and founder of Peace Coffee, a Fair Trade business with roots in Minneapolis, will share his experience with the Fair Trade movement at 4:00 pm in room 214 of the Campus Center. This weekend, please take just a few minutes of your time to learn more about this important issue, sample fairly traded foods and coffee, and shop for unique gifts that promote economic justice. Before you do your holiday shopping, consider the hope that you can bring to disadvantaged farmers and artisans by supporting Fair Trade.

Contact Molly Griffard’09 at [email protected]