October is World Fair Trade Month! We'll be having fun fair trade events 3 Saturdays in October, starting off with a magazine bead making workshop this Saturday, October 3rd from 11 AM to 2 PM. All materials will be provided.
Learn a skill that women in Uganda use to support their families, and see if you can make a bead as good as the kind we sell in our shop!
Kids are welcome, but we do ask that you keep a close eye on the glue!
I'm headed to a wedding this rainy afternoon, which made me think of what wedding ceremonies are like around the world. Here's a quick glance at what folks in some of the countries that supply our fair trade goods do to celebrate marriage.
India: Brides in India wear pink or red for their wedding. They are also decked out in lots of jewelry, and their hands and feet are painted in exquisite patterns of henna tattoes. After swapping vows in the ceremony, the father or brother of the groom throws flower petals on the new couple. Then, he holds a coconut over their heads and circles it around them three times.
Peru: Good-bye, bouquet toss; hellos, charm pull! In Peru, wedding charms with ribbons attached are put in between the layers of the wedding cake. Before the cake is cut and served, each single woman pulls a ribbon. Whoever pulls the ribbon with the ring is supposed to get married within the next year.
Ghana: Most Ghanans are Muslim or Christian, which of course leads to a wide variety of wedding traditions. Still, many still "knock on the door;" that is, the groom's mother and uncle visit the girl's family to formally propose the marriage for him.
Indonesia: Post-ceremony, most wedding receptions in Indonesia kick off with a procession to the reception site. Features of this procession include a long chain of flowers, and professional dancers performing traditional dances as family and friends wait for the new couple to arrive.
South African kids are taking it into their own hands. Tired of sub-par schools and education, this week thousands of children marched in Cape Town, asking for books and libraries for their schools. The march on city hall was organized by Equal Education, a movement that the New York Times reports has its movements in the anti-apartheid marches of the previous century. Ninth grader Abongile Ndesi told NYT: “We want more information and knowledge."
Here's some more of what's going on in South Africa, per the Times, as these students step up to demand their own when it comes to education.
Last year, Equal Education gave students in Khayelitsha, home to more than 500,000 unemployed and working-class people, disposable cameras to document problems in their high schools. They returned with shots of leaking roofs, cracked desks and children crowded around a single textbook. One image — a bank of window panes at Luhlaza high school, all shattered, captured by a student named Zukiswa Vuka — proved the most resonant. Some 500 windows at the school had been broken for years, leaving the students shivering in wintertime classes. Equal Education’s first campaign was to get them replaced. The school agreed to put up about $650, an amount the group said it would match. That left some $900 still needed. Over months, the group met with local and provincial managers, organized a communitywide petition drive, held a rally of hundreds of township students and garnered coverage in local newspapers. ... The libraries campaign is the group’s first attempt to tackle a national issue. With financial support from Atlantic Philanthropies and the Open Society Institute, among others, it is also hoping to broaden its membership to include teachers and more parents and to graduate to bigger victories. ... Abongile, the ninth grader from Luhlaza high school, noted appreciatively that she did not have to sit with chattering teeth in class this winter because the broken windows had been fixed. “I saw that Equal Education can make something impossible possible,” she said.
Bleh. This week has, so far, been a tough one. I've come down with (and now fought off, hurray!) an unpleasant strain of something: the flu, a bug, some virus, who knows. But spending a good part of the past two days camped out on the couch has done one good thing: it's reinvigorated my love of hot teas.
Coffee is great, don't get me wrong, but when I've got a sore throat or a stomachache or sometimes just because I'm craving the taste, tea is the drink of choice. There's something soothing, comforting, even healing about a hot cup of tea.
With that in mind, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to feature a few of the fair trade teas we sell at our store. We stock teas made by Equal Exchange, a company that is committed to supporting a fair and sustainable way of life for its growers. Here are a few favorites:
Wild Rooibos: I fell in love with Rooibos tea last year after a friend who had lived in Africa introduced me to the herbal drink. It is, without question, my new favorite. Accordng to Equal Exchange, the red tea "has a fruity character with vanilla overtones and is naturally caffeine free. Rooibos contains antioxidants, which are known to promote good health." It is sooo good!
Earl Grey Tea: This tea is a traditional favorite, made of certified organic Darjeeling tea. I love drinking Earl Grey all day long--it's great with breakfast, for a midafternoon break (it's the definition of traditional teatime to me), after dinner.
Green Magic Tea: The health benefits of green tea are well-known, so get on board! This tea is grown in Sri Lanka by members of the Small Organic Farmers Association.
Coffee and chocolate are two areas where it makes no sense NOT to buy fair trade--at least for me. These are ordinary items that we consume all the time, and it is easy to find both chocolate and coffee fair trade. Plus, not buying fair trade has real consequences for the growers. I've blogged about how coffee growers in west Africa depend on human trafficking and child labor to keep their plantations growing strong. Anyway, I'll get down off my soapbox now and tell you about this video, which explains briefly and clearly how and why buying fair trade coffee is muy importante. This video talks about why to buy fair, where you can find fairly traded coffee, how to know if a product is fair trade, and how to encourage more stores and coffee shops to sell fair trade.
We already blogged about the connections between Harry Potter and fair trade. Now, smart girl Hermione (known in real life as actress and Brown University freshman Emma Watson) says she's spent the last year serving as creative advisor for People Tree, a fair trade clothing line.
Watson has helped design a summer wardrobe for teens, including everything from basic cotton tees to jersey dresses and poplin shorts.
"I wanted to help People Tree produce a younger range because I was excited by the idea of using fashion as a tool to help alleviate poverty and knew it was something I could help make a difference with," Watson said. "I think young people like me are becoming increasingly aware of the humanitarian and environmental issues surrounding fast fashion and want to make good choices but there aren’t many options out there. "It has been the most incredible gap year project.”
We're gearing up for Fair Trade Month (aka October) here at World Next Door, and you're invited. We've decided to hold three Saturday events in honor of Fair Trade Month throughout October, seeing this as a way to inform more folks about fair trade and have some fun in the process. Here's a sneak peek at some of wjat we're planning for Fair Trade Month. Make sure you come by!
Saturday, October 3 Event: Make-your-own-paper beads! Time: 11am-2pm Bring your kids and make your own magazine paper beads, just like we sell in our store. We'll also be talking about the folks who make magazine jewelry in Uganda. Their work benefits AIDS orphans--come visit and find out more!
Saturday, October 17 Event: sample fair trade coffee with local fair trade coffee and teahouse Pasha, and yummy chocolate brownies from Alchemy Spice Time: 2-4 pm Have you ever wanted to find out more about the coffee you're drinking? You know--where it's from, how it's made, who grew this? This is your chance to find out. The experts at Pasha will be on hand for this free coffee tasting event, and would love to answer your questions.
Saturday, October 31 Event: Fair Trade Halloween - come into the store in your Halloween costume and get a FREE bar of chocolate. People, this is perfect for kids! If you buy something, we're also going to be giving out free mini chocolates. What can I say, we're sweet! Time: All day In addition to bringing your little ones by for a free chocolate bar, we're also going to be doing that Reverse Trick or Treating thing we blogged about earlier. You want to be here.
Check out more info on Fair Trade Month here and here.
I've already told you about Half the Sky, the new book about the state of women around the world by husband-wife team Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. If you're not intrigued enough, Slate columnist Johann Hari has given us some more reasons to check out the book--or at the very least, investigate the subject. Here is what she writes:
"While we rightly roared at racial apartheid, we act as though gender apartheid is a natural, immutable fact. With absolutely the right Molotov cocktail of on-the-ground reporting and hard social science, Kristof and WuDunn blow up this taboo. They ask: What would we do if we believed women were equal human beings, with as much right to determine their life story as men? How would we view the world differently?"
"They take the reader on a grand tour of all the issues that are ignored because women are ignored. For example—who has heard of fistula? It is today's leprosy, causing 2 million women to live and die as despised outcasts—yet it is virtually unknown. When a woman has a long, obstructed labor with no doctors to help her deliver, the blood supply to her vagina, bladder, and rectum can be cut off. The tissues die, and a hole is ripped in her flesh. From that hole, shit and piss will leak for the rest of her life in one long incontinent streak. Because she stinks, she is rejected by her husband and her community, and forced to live scavenging on the streets. In every African town, you see fistula-stricken women, wandering aimlessly, their heads down in shame. They are the saddest people I have ever met. But this problem is cruelly easy to treat. For $300, a fistula can be repaired in 90 percent of cases. Fistula can be beaten, if only we value women enough to do it. There used to be a fistula hospital in Manhattan. Today, it is the Waldorf-Astoria. Or how about the enslavement of women in brothels, which is now far larger than the trans-Atlantic slave trade at its height? Some 3.5 million women are being jailed, drugged, and raped for cash today. This brutalization of women doesn't have to happen any more than the enslavement of Africans did in the 18th century. As the authors write: "The tools to crush modern slavery exist, but the political will is lacking. That must be the starting point of any abolitionist movement." International pressure—set in motion by the acts of ordinary citizens—works."
Hari doesn't blink at the book's flaws, criticizing the couple's defense of sweatshops (Kristof believes the work women find in these squalid factories is, in the long run, better than staying home and working the fields). Hari says: "Anti-sweatshop campaigners—who he has explicitly chided—want all factories, everywhere, to adhere to certain minimum standards: No use of beatings, a maximum working day, safety precautions. Then they won't be sweatshops; they'll just be factories. Whenever he is confronted with this argument, Kristof says that any country that imposes basic human conditions on sweatshops loses its trade to a country that won't and women suffer. But this ignores an obvious truth: Anti-sweatshop campaigners want to see these rules imposed everywhere. There should be no escape clauses and no places where multinational corporations can go to cheaply abuse women for a few extra pennies of profit."
Regardless, I'm planning on checking out this book--and soon. Tell me: are there other books I should add to my reading list? What have you read that informed and inspired you?
Fall is, quite possibly, my favorite season of the year. Of course, I adore Christmastime, and springtime equals bliss in my book, but fall... fall is vibrant leaves, bonfires on chilly nights, camping weather. And football. Born and bred in the southeastern United States, I learned to love football (particularly the college variety) the way I learned to walk and talk. It was everywhere, a part of life, and I grew up spending Saturdays attached to the TV or radio, holding my breath with every wavering pass and praying for mercy on fourth and longs.
Yesterday I went to a college football game (my first of the season) and it set me to thinking. While they're not often mentioned in the same breath, football and fair trade share more than a bit of common ground. Here's my top five list.
1. Play fair. This principle is obvious in fair trade: it's the foundation on which the whole movement is based. In football, make an unfair tackle or flout the rules in any fashion, and you'll suffer the consequences by losing yardage.
2. Teamwork. No single player can win or lose a football game. It takes a group of players cooperating together to reach the final goal: victory. A good quarterback depends on his offensive line, a running back needs blocks. Both offense and defense have to do their part. Fair trade similarly relies on groups of people working together for the common good. Farmers growing fair trade coffee in Africa typically band together in fair trade co-ops. They also depend on you and me--retailers and consumers--to stock and purchase their products. No single link in the chain can guarantee success; it's all about working together.
3. It's about work. No football team finds success without spending many, many, many hours on the practice field. Two-a-days in summer heat might equal a win in the cool of fall. But skip the practice and the outcome is all but guaranteed. Fair traders don't get far if they're not doing the unglamorous work. Making the product is just the first step. Then there's marketing, selling the goods, educating the public, shipping...and on and on the list continues.
4. Innovation. Albert Einstein once defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." A good coach mixes it up, knowing that repetition makes it easy to predict--and defeat--his team. A prudent fair trader understands that success depends on flexibility to changing times and circumstances. Artists must continue to create new and unique pieces, farmers must adjust their plans according to the changes each season brings.
5. Know the basics. A mastery of simple principles--like wrapping up a tackle or reinforcing stitching--leads to a big payoff in the long run. Who doesn't like to watch a well-executed game? Who doesn't like a beautiful and utilitarian purse? No one, that's who. Do your job well, and folks will sit up and take notice.
Have you ever thought that promising folks an extra holiday each year is the surely the most certain path to political office? Well, you're not alone.
In 1894, President Grover Cleveland followed through on a campaign pledge and enacted the first ever national Labor Day. The movement toward Labor Day had been gathering momentum for awhile, and notably gained steam in 1892 when New York City union workers took an unpaid day in support of the idea. Labor Day was placed halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving because--as we all know--everyone needs a break about this time!
In 1898, Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, said that Labor Day was "the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed...that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it."
It's not happening here in the U.S., but Starbucks has announced that, beginning yesterday, all espresso drinks in the U.K. and Ireland will be fair trade.
"Starbucks said it’s the world’s largest purchaser of fair trade coffee and added that its move will contribute about $4 million annually to small-scale coffee farmers," according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. "The company said it gets most of its “Starbucks Fairtrade Certified Espresso Roast” from Latin America, mainly from Guatemala, Costa Rica and Peru."
I've copied below some excerpts from an opinion piece written by Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the American journalists who spent 140 days in a North Korean jail. The column was posted on the Los Angeles Times website last night.
Interestingly, the thing that shines through the most in this piece is the women's passion and determination to shed light on the lives of North Koreans who have been trafficked across the China-North Korea border. Ling and Lee write:
"We had traveled to the area to document a grim story of human trafficking for Current TV. During the previous week, we had met and interviewed several North Korean defectors -- women who had fled poverty and repression in their homeland, only to find themselves living in a bleak limbo in China. Some had, out of desperation, found work in the online sex industry; others had been forced into arranged marriages."
Here are a few more glimpses of their experience.
On Their Capture
"When we set out, we had no intention of leaving China, but when our guide beckoned for us to follow him beyond the middle of the river, we did, eventually arriving at the riverbank on the North Korean side. He pointed out a small village in the distance where he told us that North Koreans waited in safe houses to be smuggled into China via a well-established network that has escorted tens of thousands across the porous border.Feeling nervous about where we were, we quickly turned back toward China. Midway across the ice, we heard yelling. We looked back and saw two North Korean soldiers with rifles running toward us. Instinctively, we ran.We were firmly back inside China when the soldiers apprehended us. Producer Mitch Koss and our guide were both able to outrun the border guards. We were not. We tried with all our might to cling to bushes, ground, anything that would keep us on Chinese soil, but we were no match for the determined soldiers. They violently dragged us back across the ice to North Korea and marched us to a nearby army base, where we were detained."
Shining the Light
"Our motivations for covering this story were many. First and foremost, we believe that journalists have a responsibility to shine light in dark places, to give voice to those who are too often silenced and ignored. One of us, Euna, is a devout Christian whose faith infused her interest in the story. The other, Laura, has reported on the exploitation of women around the world for years. We wanted to raise awareness about the harsh reality facing these North Korean defectors who, because of their illegal status in China, live in terror of being sent back to their homeland...
Many people have asked about our strength to endure such hardships and uncertainty. But our experiences pale when compared with the hardship facing so many people living in North Korea or as illegal immigrants in China...we would rather redirect this interest to the story we went to report on, a story about despairing North Korean defectors who flee to China only to find themselves living a different kind of horror. We hope that now, more than ever, the plight of these people and of the aid groups helping them are not forgotten."
Life in Limbo
"Most of the North Koreans we spoke with said they were fleeing poverty and food shortages. One girl in her early 20s said she had been told she could find work in the computer industry in China. After being smuggled across the Tumen River, she found herself working with computers, but not in the way she had expected. She became one of a growing number of North Korean women who are being used as Internet sex workers, undressing for online clients on streaming video. Some defectors appeared more nervous about being interviewed than others. But they all agreed that their lives in China, while stark, were better than what they had left behind in North Korea."
Protecting Their Sources
"We were left for a very brief time with our belongings. With guards right outside the room, we furtively destroyed evidence in our possession by swallowing notes and damaging videotapes."
Read the entire column here, on the LA Times website. I promise, it's worth it.