After living in Ghana, a small developing nation in West Africa, for nearly a decade the factors supporting the necessity of “Fair Trade” are evident. Developing nations such as most in Africa, Asia, Central and South America where many hand-crafted items originate are starkly poor. Many of the artist who create a plethora of goods ranging from clothing, housewares, and accessories live on extremely low wages. Under the current modern business structure it is appropriate to obtain these goods for the lowest price possible for higher profit back in the West. However, given the fact that many of the producers do not have the educational background, business savvy, or bargaining power to demand higher wages most are offered low pay for their time and effort. Often, a producer’s pay is barely enough to provide adequate meals for one’s family.
Fair Trade is an attempt to reverse the process of exploitation within the global marketplace. Many producers in developing nations are unaware of their rights for fair and liveable wages. In developing nations, severe poverty has a profound effect on one’s outlook. Any employment, even one that is exploitative and unsustainable, is welcomed over the absence of any work to support oneself. Therefore, many people growing up in these communities feel powerless to complain about an employment opportunity. Yet, a function of Fair Trade requires buyers to educate producers about their rights to “fair pay”. This doesn’t open the gates for factory workers to demand salaries that can buy them the latest sports car or most expensive designer clothing. However, at the very least being able to purchase adequate nutritious food and basic over-the-counter medicine for a child with a minor illness should be a human right for everyone who works. Moreover, doesn’t it seem contradictory to purchase a product sold in the U.S. by an employee who is legally granted a minimum wage if the same product was initially produced by an underpaid exploited worker abroad?
Non-fair trade products have a lower currency price. Our nation has become accustomed to rock-bottom prices and extraordinary deals but at what price does this have on our concept of humanity? When cheaper products at your local Wal-Mart result in thousands of underpaid workers in a foreign land who do not earn enough to provide meals for their families, adequate medical care, and basic education for their dependents how can we assess the true cost of these purchases as inexpensive.
Shopping Fair Trade puts you in an active role in helping to mend the disparity between the developing world and our own. Paying workers in developing nations livable wages provides a more meaningful base for development as manufacturers and producers are able to provide basic necessities for the next generation. There is also a lasting impact of empowering Fair Trade producers in these communities to hold themselves and the products they make to higher standards which result in a better finished piece. If you’d like more information or have comments on the issue of Fair Trade please communicate them with our growing community.