Saturday, July 11, 2009

Read All About It!

We're in the news! This week has been rather media-intense, as we've interviewed with Around and About on the local NPR affiliate, and have also met with Joy Lukachik, a Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter. Her article on fair trade, which headlines with World Next Door, is in today's paper.
Here it is:

Local fair trade businesses helping poor of world
Forced to work the redlight district in the slums of India since she was 12 years old, Sunita finally found an escape from her prison.
She was approached by two Americans 10 years ago who offered to teach her to sew.
Today, Sunita, whose name was changed to protect her identity, is a manager for an American-run fair trade company in India called FreeSet, which produces handbags and blankets to sell in the United States.
She is able to support herself through the fair trade system, said managers of Chattanooga's World Next Door who sell only fair trade products including FreeSet hand bags and met Sunita in April.
"We can, as Americans, help countries that have workers who were taken advantage of," said Jency Shirai, a World Next Door manager.
Seventy-one percent of U.S. consumers have heard of the term "fair trade," the global movement to promote fair pay and economic growth in Third World countries, according to a report released by the Fair Trade Federation in March.
But of that number, less than 10 percent have purchased a fair trade product, the study shows.
Despite those numbers, fair trade is a growing industry in the United States, said federation Executive Director Carmen K. Iezzi, noting that the same report showed a 56 percent increase in the sale of fair trade products from 2007 to 2008 in North America.
Ms. Shirai said World Next Door sells only fair-trade products, including necklaces from Kenya and hand-carved boxes from Peru. The store owners pay a fair price for goods to ensure the Third World craftsmen are making enough money to support themselves.
When the local owners buy products from Third World craftsmen, the money is paid upfront, Ms. Shirai said. Her store is not nonprofit, but she said its mission is to be "a better alternative to business."
Owners of other fair-trade businesses in Chattanooga agree that people are not as educated as they should be on the treatment of farmers and craftsmen in the Third World.
If you ask shoppers at Greenlife Grocery, which carries a large range of fair trade products, some say they have never heard of fair trade. Others, however, seek out fair trade products.
"Fair trade is helping people (and) helping them develop a better life," said Dori Elliot from Trion, Ga., who makes special trips each week to shop at Greenlife.
Pasha's Coffee and Tea in St. Elmo only sells fair trade coffee and espresso, owner Ladonna Cingille said.
"If everybody did something small it could really help," she said. "It could put more pressure on people who are enslaving people."
On Frazier Avenue, Go Fish Clothing and Jewelry Co. displays pictures of craftsmen and seamstresses beside products sold in the store. The pictures put a face to the products, owner Sherra Lewis said.
"(The signs) notify shoppers of where the items came from," Ms. Lewis said.
Still, although fair trade is benefiting many people in poverty, there are still policies that can be improved, said Stone Cup Roasting Co. owner Jennifer Stone, who sells about 40 percent fair trade coffee. For example, she said some companies that claim to be fair trade are not paying enough to farmers.
Consumers should do their research when they purchase fair trade products and also consider giving money directly to organizations that help Third World workers.

Check out the Time Free Press's online version of the story to see a quick clip from Jency's interview.
I'd also like to note that, although I'm sure we didn't do a good job clarifying this initially, the couple who initially started FreeSet are New Zealand natives, not Americans.

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