Monthly Archives: September 2009

What Holy Days Support your Fair Trade Work?

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by Adrienne Fitch-Frankel

The Jewish high holidays referenced in Adrienne’s post last week have ended, and we finish up her contributions to this spirituality blog with a few more thoughts about the connection to economic justice of religious rituals and holy days. I’ll be curious to know if readers have particular religious rituals that evoke their devotion to justice…..

As I mentioned, one of my favorite Global Exchange resources is Passover Seder insert, which is written in the lyrical language of the Passover Haggadah and draws a parallel between the Biblical story of slavery in Egypt and the slavery faced by the children who are forced to grow our cocoa.

Here is an excerpt from the Passover Seder insert that draws those connections:

Assembled: We can walk in Moses’ footsteps. We can have the courage to ask the Pharaohs of today to let the children go.

Leader: We feel our lives are busy. That we do not have the time. But where would we be if Moses did not take the time to lead us to freedom?

Assembled: Where will those children be next year, if we do not take a little time to help these children find freedom?

Our faith traditions and sacred books explain, in a way that resonates especially deeply, why we should engage in social justice advocacy.  These texts and stories are rich with social justice messages that have passed the values of each of our faith communities from generation to generation for thousands of years.  Many members of faith communities grow up integrating these values into the core of our being, and they manifest themselves in daily acts as simple as looking for a Fair Trade label or as broad as developing a strategy to persuade an entire community or nation to go Fair Trade.  These values catalyze not only our own personal involvement, but means that millions like us share our social justice values and are likely to get involved if only they had the information and programs available to them.

The “how” is equally important.  Effective social justice organizing and outreach is structured through communicating to groups of people.  Congregations are some of the only large groups that have survived the fracturing of our society away from interdependent communities.  This means that communities of faith are among our society’s most important champions of social justice, not only because of values, but also because of the communities they have held together more successfully than other institutions.

Regardless of which faith tradition you come from, I would like to invite each and every one of you to participate in a tradition I just followed at the Jewish New Year.  Each of us is challenged to reflect on how we can be our best selves, and set some goals for the coming year on how we would like to change.  After you finish reading this article, please take just five minutes to set a new goal for something new you will commit to do to promote Fair Trade.  Make a plan, with the steps you will take to reach that goal and a timeline.”

Return to Adrienne’s posting from last week if you need specific action ideas, and please do use this blog to share the religious rituals or traditions that inspire you to act for economic justice.–Jackie

Why a Nice Jewish Girl Writes Holiday Carols

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by Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, Global Exchanges Fair Trade Campaign Director

This week, as Rosh Hashanah approaches, I am honored that Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, a self-described “nice Jewish girl,” is sharing the faith-based reasons behind her Fair Trade work.  I got to know and respect Adrienne a bit as she created the Fair Trade Holiday project for Global Exchange.  Shes one of Fair Trade’s most energetic and creative activists so it is no surprise she ends this reflection (the first of two installments) with several inclusive action steps. ~ Jackie

The week this blog entry is being posted, Jewish people celebrate our holiest week of the year:  the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  Therefore, the question of how my faith background intersects with my role as Global Exchanges Fair Trade Campaign Director is especially present with me.  For me, there is both a personal side to this question “How do our faith traditions move us personally?” and a pragmatic, campaign side to this question” How can our personal understanding of faith communities inform and improve our campaigns to promote Fair Trade?”

For me, on the most personal level, there is one single experience that fascinates me the most about the intersection of spirituality and social justice advocacy.  Have you ever had an “ah-hah” moment about the roots of your passion for social justice advocacy when you participate in a religious custom or service?  For me, as a secular Jew who participates in faith rituals mostly on religious holidays, the “ah-hah” moments happen every year when I attend services for the High Holidays, retell the Hanukkah story, or participate in the Passover Seder.

Of all the pieces I have written for Global Exchanges Fair Trade Campaign, one of my favorites is our Passover Seder insert, which is written in the lyrical language of the Passover Haggadah and draws a parallel between the Biblical story of slavery in Egypt and the slavery faced by the children who are forced to grow our cocoa.  At Passover, we remember the time that the Jewish people suffered as slaves in Egypt and escaped.  Global Exchanges Fair Trade campaign not only promotes Fair Trade cocoa, but also seeks to end child slavery in the cocoa fields, which is prohibited by the Fair Trade standards.  An estimated 12,000 children are slaves in the cocoa fields of West Africa.

Thinking about this piece, and reflecting on faith and Fair Trade advocacy, I have been struck by the themes of personal responsibility for social justice advocacy that seem to emerge from our faith traditions.  Parts of the Haggadah are written in the first person, as we say “when I was a slave in Egypt”, not “when they were slaves in Egypt.”  The Passover Seder serves as a mandate to all generations to put ourselves firmly in the shoes of another, imagine what it would be like, and work to end the injustice around us today.

Thinking of this characteristic of the Haggadah, one hears echoes of other wisdom that comes from our faith communities, like the rule of treating our neighbor as we would wish to be treated ourselves.  Or the famous poem of theologian and Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemaller, in which the voice in the poem laments that each time the Nazis came for another group, he or she did not speak up, and “Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”  Or the expression “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Fair Trade is about walking in another persons shoes.  We are all the farmer in Ethopia, the enslaved child in the cocoa fields of Ivory Coast, or that childs parents, sick with worry, the youth in a coffee-farming community hungering to go to school.

For all that we stand in the shoes of neighbors, we also stand in our own shoes.  And we are blessed with resources and a sense of fairness and a moral compass that our faith traditions give us.  The resources to change things are in our hands.  If only each one of us recommits ourselves to using them.

When we choose the coffee or cocoa or crafts we will buy, we must treat our neighbors as we would wish to be treated ourselves.  Not only that, but we must take action to transform the economy so that every one of our real neighbors in our community is also buying Fair Trade.  We are the ones with the resources and the ability to speak out.  We are all Moses.

I feel very blessed to bring a background of having been raised in a faith tradition to my work in Fair Trade, and not only because it is one of the original catalysts that inspired me to do this work.  I believe that having a deep appreciation for the importance and potential of the contributions of faith communities in achieving social justice enables me to better serve in my role of supporting coffee- and cocoa-growing communities lift themselves out of poverty.  For those of us who were raised and/or participate in a faith tradition, I think our background provides us a key component of both the “why?” and “how?” of compelling, effective, and dynamic social justice advocacy.  To me, even though I work at a secular institution, this means that faith-based initiatives are absolutely a priority in Fair Trade advocacy.

During this special week and beyond, I would like to invite you to help spread Fair Trade faith-based programs (available at www.globalexchange.org/cocoa) all over the US, by participating, organizing your congregations, and telling friends nationwide:

Finally, I would like to invite you to join me in the cocoa fields, so that together we can learn about the lives of producers and even ask them their opinions on the role of faith in Fair Trade.  I will be leading a delegation to Conacado in the Dominican Republic in May 26-June 6, 2010.  Visit www.globalexchange.org/tours for more information.

Make Money and Make a Difference with Fair Trade Fundraising

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ee-ashley-symonsBy Ashley Symons, Equal Exchange

I went to elementary school in the Midwest in the early ’90s. Every fall, we entered the school gymnasium to get pumped up for our annual fundraiser. This kick-off event was meant to energize us to sell, with lures of all the prizes we could win if we sold the most candy bars, tubs of popcorn, or wrapping paper. The philosophy was, “the more you sell, the more you’ll win random stuff you really don’t need!” Never did we talk about how what we were selling might impact people or places. Just get the most money, and you too could win a neon-pink kazoo keychain. Woo-hoo!

Fifteen years later, I’m so pleased to be a worker-owner at Equal Exchange, where we offer schools a different kind of fundraising. My co-worker, Virginia Berman, started the Equal Exchange Fundraising Program after getting requests from teachers and parents who wanted an alternative fundraiser. After three years, we’ve partnered with over 300 groups. And the momentum continues to grow every day.ee-montgomery-blog

So, what’s special about this fundraiser? Well, for one it offers totally yummy fairly traded and organic coffee, tea, chocolate, nuts and dried fruit. It’s stuff that people already eat and drink, so it doesn’t feel wasteful like typical fundraisers. Plus, it’s fairly traded, so you can feel good knowing your fundraising dollars are supporting small-scale farmer co-ops and their communities. Additionally, the products are organic. The farmers use sustainable farming methods, without all those nasty pesticides and fertilizers. It’s better for them, it’s better for you and your kids, and it’s better for our earth.

Equal Exchange also developed a Fair Trade and co-op economics curriculum to accompany the Fundraising Program, to teach children that their everyday choices can make a difference in the lives of others (it’s free to download on our web site). We really believe that change is on the horizon – and we need the help of future generations to make sure we are supporting farmers internationally, while also making efforts toward greening this planet of ours.

The bottom line? Your school fundraiser can make a difference worldwide while raising money for your own community. Sounds way better than a neon-pink kazoo keychain, if you ask me.

To find out more about the Equal Exchange Fundraising Program, please visit www.equalexchange.coop/fundraiser

Fair Trade in the White House

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michelle_obama_farmers-mktBy Zarah Patriana

I don’t need to drink the Kool-Aid to know that Michelle Obama is incredible. Princeton University for undergrad, Harvard for Law School, former associate at a law firm, a former Executive Director at the University of Chicago Hospitals, former Associate Dean at University of Chicago, proud mother of two daughters, First Lady of the United States and how could we forget her impeccable fashion sense and those arms. A strong, intelligent woman with credentials to back it up.

Yes, I’m a big fan of Mrs. Obama. So, when I heard about the campaign appealing to the First Lady to Fair Trade the White House I was immediately on board. The goal of the campaign is simple:

We are a grassroots, nonpartisan coalition of Fair Trade organizations, vendors, and consumers whose goal is to cordially invite First Lady Michelle Obama to join the Fair Trade movement by declaring the White House a “Fair Trade Home.”

Michelle already has a good record going at greening the White House.  She’s got the White House kitchen serving only organic foods, started a garden on the South Lawn, pushed for the opening of a Farmer’s Market near the Executive Mansion and even has a colony of bees at the Presidential home providing the First Family and company with honey. So, if one of the main messages here is to encourage ethical and sustainable consumption,  methinks that getting Fair Trade into the White House is an easy next step.

Setting the example of having Fair Trade products in the White House would send the message to the general public that their purchasing habits can “alleviate poverty, reduce inequality, and create opportunities for people to help themselves.”

If anyone can set a good example, it would be Michelle Obama. As the Atlantic recently said about her influence on the people, “It’s like her outfits. When she wears a J. Crew dress, everyone goes out and buys it. It’s going to be the same thing with kale.”

And if she can get people to buy more kale, certainly she can get more people to go Fair Trade.

So, I urge you all to join the campaign to invite the First Lady to Fair Trade the White House and let people know that people producing a product are treated fairly, paid fairly and are being fair to the environment.  Learn more or take action at http://www.fairtradewhitehouse.com/index.htm

New Fair Trade Store in San Luis Obispo

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Humankind Fair Trade opened its doors to provide customers a new location to buy Fair Trade pottery, baskets, lighting, wall art, garden art, textiles, and a small selection of furniture.  The merchandise for the California shop is purchased through a variety of distributors.  The store is located on Monterey Street and it is operated by the nonprofit organization Ten Thousand Villages.  If you are in the area check it out and support this new Fair Trade endeavor.  See the full story.

How to Include Producers in FT Movement Planning?

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amina-rajab-and-dehiya-farash_uganda_servv(Artisans Amina Rajab and Dehiya Farash in Uganda – photo courtesy of SERRV )

by Jeff Goldman

With a main goal of empowering vulnerable artisans and farmers, and improving their quality of lives, Fair Trade has struggled for decades with how to include producers in movement planning. While the will may be strong for many Fair Trade leaders and organizations, the implementation is quite challenging. Barriers often include costly logistics (communications, visas), low capacity (skills and knowledge) and competing interests.
Some FT organizations have experimented with types of solutions. These have included producer ownership (Divine Chocolate), board representation (Fairtrade Labeling Organization), tours to network with industrialized country FT leaders (Green America and Partners for Just Trade), and other involvement. However, lots of Fair Traders argue this hasn’t been enough.
So, please suggest any creative and practical ways to include producers in appropriate levels of FT movement planning.

A Fair Trade Anniversary!

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by Jackie DeCarlo

As I write anniversary celebrations for SERRV have begun.  Started by Church of the Brethren relief workers, this Fair Trade pioneer has been working to eradicate poverty for 60 years!  While now an independent organization, SERRV is a fine example of how faith-based values shaped the Fair Trade movement a generation ago, creating a legacy for both secular and religious participants.    I encourage you to visit the SERRV website to take a look at the timeline of its accomplishments, which were often fueled by volunteers. http://www.serrv.org/AboutUs/60thAnniversary.aspx

Also please consider sharing on this blog your own faith community’s commitment to Fair Trade.  Last week we learned of a congregational church utilizing Fair Trade coffee to support for U.S. troops in harm’s way.  Let us know how or why your faith-community  participates in the Fair Trade movement.

First FT Standards for Gold Nearly Complete

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Fairtrade Labeling Organization, and Alliance for Responsible Mining, are reported to be finalizing the first standards for Fair Trade Certified gold.  These partners are creating a distinctly different certification system than one being developed for socially responsible gems and precious metals by the Responsible Jewelry Council.  The latter system is not calling itself Fair Trade, rather socially responsible.  See full article.

Fair Trade Month

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ft-month-2009by Zarah Patriana

31 Days, 31 Ways

Looking at the calendar, it dawned on me that Fair Trade Month is less than a month away.  In case you didn’t know, October is designated Fair Trade Month and it is all about

[S]preading the word.  It’s about letting your friends, family and coworkers know what a big difference Fair Trade makes in the lives of small farmers and farm workers throughout the world.

Fair Trade Month is hosted by TransFairUSA to promote awareness and sales of Fair Trade Certified products. This year, the goal is to reach even more people than before.  The running theme is 31 Days, 31 Ways, 3100 Followers and 31000 Fans. Each day, there will be 31 different Fair Trade facts features, along with 31 ways to spread Fair Trade in your community – both local and online!

Jet on over to the Fair Trade Month website where you can find out about events going on in your city, or register your own event. You can even post photos, share videos and interact with Fair Traders across the country. Oh, sweet interactivity on the internets. The future is now.  But once you’re done perusing the site, get out into your community and start planning an event. I know my Bay Area Fair Trade Coalition-San Francisco Chapter has already got our wheels turning on the big month – Reverse Trick-or-Treating anyone?

Let the countdown begin…

Should Fair Trade Labels Differentiate Between Various Standards?

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by Jeff Goldman

coffee_displayFor the most part, one Fair Trade product label is prominent in N. America, the one licensed by TransFair USA.  Anytime we simplify complex issues into one brief message, lots of information gets lost in translation.  In Fair Trade, the lost information includes the extent of a company’s commitment to Fair Trade.  For example, Equal Exchange sells close to 100% of its products as FT, whereas Dunkin’ Donuts something less than 5%.  Other lost information includes what exact standards of FT are practiced in producing the labeled good.  For example, members of the Fair Trade Federation are required to be open to public accountability, whereas those using the Fair Trade Certified label are not.  Would consumers care enough to get this kind of information from a product or company label or mark?

Some people would argue that it gets too confusing, in an already crowded market of socially responsible labels.  Others would argue that any group of labels would still leave out other important information.  Another group would say that there are just too many ways to measure the benefits of Fair Trade to neatly identify high, medium and lower standards.  Any gold standard, and regular standard, would have lots of different definitions.

So, how do we balance the benefits of distinguishing between good, better and best with the desire for efficiency, simplicity and practicality of Fair Trade choices and labels?