It has been about 6 months since we were suddenly taken by the topic of fair trade. To be honest, we mostly stumbled on it through some trendy, local, products that happened to have a fair trade label. For a long time now we’ve been really passionate about the power and simplicity of local and transparent commerce.
This entry isn’t really an easy one to write because, honestly, I haven’t found all the answers. For 6 months we've been dabbling in the world between trendy, crafted and ethical products and it feels like it’s time to put all that aside for a minute and just write. So if you are with me, here goes.
For the past several years we’ve been involved in a few organizations that rescue and rehabilitate sex slavery victims. We’ve found ourselves outraged, heartbroken and ultimately provoked by the cause. We’ve rallied voices, put on events and raised money because we just can’t stand back and watch while 9 and 10 year old girls are forced into unthinkable lives of slavery.
Along the way, we’ve had this nagging question. What happens after one girl is rescued? Does another one simply fill her place? The demand for sex slavery is really the core problem right? Of course, we’ve pressed forward, because there is no other choice. We can’t stand by and let slavery happen on our watch.
It is at this point in the story that we were a little blindsided. In our research for The Good Trade we started running across stories of slavery that looked different. These were stories like Alejandra's. She’s a 12 year old girl who is forced to spend14 hours a day walking through a mosquito infested swamp harvesting clams. Then there was the story of 10 year old Abdul, who harvests cocoa beans for chocolate brands that we buy every day. He was 7 when his mother died and at that time he was taken across the border to the Ivory Coast where he has since worked 18 hour days for little to no pay. We started uncovering instances of beatings, sexual abuse and young children who were forced to work in toxic and dangerous environments that their adult counterparts wouldn’t come near. We even found a few stats that showed that these stories were the experiences of hundreds of millions of children across the globe.
At this point we were fully ready to put all of this information into that little spot in our life that contains the bad in the world that we really can’t control. You know, that place where we put wars and ebola. It’s not the place for things we don’t care about, it’s the pace for things we don’t think we can control.
As we were about to file these stories away, we had a sickening thought that we haven’t fully been able to shake since.
Wait. This is different. We can tweet about it, host events and even spread awareness. We could be full blown activists but we are the client. Oh my god, I’m the client.
Sure, I hadn’t flown across the world to do anyone harm but as a child is being kicked awake at 4 AM half way across the world, I'm buying my second Americano and renting another day of his life.
For years I’ve been fighting for and celebrating efforts to end sex slavery. Those girls and boys are worth fighting for and I’ve told myself that I would give just about anything to see even one of them free.
But this is different. This is a slavery that I’m funding. 6 year olds that should be in school are sewing T shirts that I might be wearing this summer.
Maybe this is so hard to grasp because I really don’t know what to do about it. It’s not like these stories are told on coffee cup sleeves or shirt labels. The truth is that I really don’t know where most of these products I’m using were made but I’m not ok with that anymore.
Before you close your laptop and and try to forget this entry I want you to hear me. This issue isn’t going to change over night. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to change.
It’s going to change through little decisions that millions of people make all over the world. The way we see it, all of this doesn’t mean that we won’t be buying from the brands that we love in 10 years. It simply means we will have demanded more of them. More transparency, more awareness and more consistent ethical choices.
Every dollar we spend is a vote for something. In 2015 we want ours to vote for freedom.
Thanks for listening.