This is Ismaella.
She creates necklaces in one of the artisan groups with which Trades of Hope partners. She gave me permission to share her words: “I don't need to ask my mom for money. I became more independent economically, and I can help others also.” Ismaella says her dream is to be a lawyer one day.
I’ll be traveling to Haiti next week on a business trip to see her, and I’m thankful, more than ever to be in this business partnership with her.
Tomorrow, May 13, 2017, is World Fair Trade Day.
Many of the things we buy on a regular basis are made by women, men, and children around the world who are treated and paid very poorly. Approximately, 40% of the world's population exists on $2 dollars a day. When I was a teenager, $10 finds at Forever21 was exciting. Now, I see things on sale for $10, $5, or even $2 and think, “Someone in the process of this product is being taken advantage of.” Underpaid, mistreated people toiling in sweatshops or even slavery contributes to the cheap prices available to us, most often also leaving a damaging footprint on our environment behind.
Fair Trade creates space in the world for socially conscious, dignified, and safe partnerships between product-makers, product-retailers, and product-consumers. Some of the Fair Trade principles include, but aren’t limited to, supporting safe and empowering working conditions, create opportunities for economically and socially marginalized producers, paying producers promptly and fairly, and respecting cultural identity.
Tomorrow is a day to celebrate women like Ismaella who, through fair trade practices and socially conscious shoppers, can reach for her dreams. It is also a day to put our foot down. People toiling in sweatshops, child labor, slavery: these are realities that do not need to exist.
How can we do our part to empower those who are economically and socially oppressed and protect our beautiful world?
1. We can lower the demand.
By not buying cheap products, we lower the retailer’s ability to order more inventory, also lowering the availability of abusive positions that take women, men, and children captive. With most brands not prioritizing the human who make product, this realistically is a gradual change. Don’t try to quit buying everything you do now immediately. That’s not feasible! Just find a couple ethical brands (like Trades of Hope!) or products at a time or choose one area of your shopping to slowly change for the better.
2. We can shop brands that are conscious.
By purchasing from brands that have humanity, equality, and the environment in mind (even if you pay a little bit more), enables companies to have more job positions for women and men around the world. As a founder of Trades of Hope, I can tell you firsthand how the upward growth of our company directly correlates to being able to help more and more people sustainably and long term. In addition to our company that sells fashion accessories and home décor, there are plenty of companies that sell fair trade, ethically made skin care, make up, clothes, and household products. Spend some time on Google and find brands that fit with you.
3. We can buy less stuff and buy more of what truly brings us joy.
I recently made a lifestyle change by buying less that I might only wear for a short period of time, buying pieces on a whim because I thought I might like it. I started asking myself, “Does this really bring me joy? Or am I just buying it because so-and-so had something similar or because it will make people perceive me a certain way?” Keeping pieces that are better quality and that you are truly excited about longer will also lessen the demand for retailers that don’t have humanity’s wellness at heart. If you do want to let something go, bring it to a thrift store so someone else can get their clothes from your closet, again, lowering the demand of sweatshops.
It’s time to start wearing what we believe.
It would be so easy to wear accessories everyone else is wearing, pieces that can be easily found at every surrounding store. But everything we buy was made by someone, a person with a heart and family and dreams, Ismaella. Trades of Hope creates a marketplace of accessories made by artisans in 16 countries who are now earning a safe, sustainable incomes for the first time.
This is what I believe in.
Poverty ending. Hearts hoping. People rising. Nations healing.
What do you believe in?