While searching through fair trade websites about the Futures Conference I happened upon Pauline Tiffen. Miss Tiffen spoke as a keynote speaker at the last Fair Trade Futures Conference. Aside from founding two fair trade companies, Cafédirect and The Day Chocolate Company, she was a founding member of the International Federation of Alternative Trade and is currently a Board Member and adviser of the North American Fair Trade Federation. In her talk entitled “Who Owns Fair Trade?” she spoke about the many victories and challenges that fair trade has experienced through the years.
She spoke about her dream, years ago - to make fair trade products accessible. A dream conceived when anything marked with those two words required a trek to the “dirty old health store” in downtown somewhere or other. Fair trade has come a long way since. It seems like every social movement starts with a dream, evoked by some truth in the fabric of humanity. Fair Trade is a response to unjust economic systems. Systems in place which keep producers and sellers in developing countries subsisting at the low rungs of society. But aside from fair trade being a response, or more formally, a “process oriented” system that makes sure a product is made in a fair way Tippen says that it is also something deeply personal, subjective, and human.
“Who cares about fair trade, she asks. Then with a giggle, “who cares about slightly less fair trade?”
I contemplated this question and answered, “I do.” But what lengths will I go to ensure that the products I purchase are created in a fair manner? I feel my heart slowly inflate whenever I find a fair trade logo on something I happen to like, but what of all the things in my closet that were made in sweat shops, by underpaid, poorly cared for, male, female, and even child workers? What pain and injustice has my mindless consumerism caused?
I find my fair trade meaning in the stories – of the artisans, their histories and countries woven with their beautifully calloused hands into the threads of my vibrant scarf, my beaded necklaces, my Nelson Mandela doll…
If you would like to listen to Pauline Tiffen, hear her here: http://vimeo.com/3593015
If you would like to register for the Fair Trade Futures Conference, sign up here: http://fairtradeconference.ning.com/
If you would like a place to purchase ethical gifts, you can find some here: http://globalgoodspartners.org/template/index.cfm