I love chocolate. When I was younger, I was promised I could get a whole candy bar to myself if I finished my dinner. I can see eyebrows give me the skeptical look when I said “whole” but I was usually only allowed a four pices. I know, what a travesty! A whole candy bar to myself was comparable to a longer bed time, watching a show with a PG -13 rating, or even a spontaneous sleep over from a classmate. My parents were forward thinkers in making the candy bar last all week. All I could see was the chocolatey sweet ambrosia coming into a mouth of uber joy. Hershey’s (dark chocolate, milk chocolate), Reese’s (peanut butter), M&M’s (peanut butter, nuts) Nestle’s, Kit Kat’s and variety of other chocolate bars were household names to me. I knew how these savory treats were sweet to me, but I never at what cost. On Tuesday October 12th, in the barn on the Catonsville campus, I learned that the familiar brand that kept my chocolate safe for eating was came from orphaned children, cruel slave masters, unlawful child labor.
No school, no parents, no friends, no money, only cocoa. Seven days a week, from dusk till dawn, young boys (between the ages of 6-13) in remote parts of the Ivory Coast (Cote D’voire), are climbing trees with machetes, and chopping off cocoa beans. Child workers labor for long, punishing hours, facing frequent exposure to dangerous pesticides as they travel great distances in the grueling heat. Some have been taken from the family, others have been sold by their parents into the cocoa trade to make money that never makes it back home. A stranger chaperones the children throughout the day. They rarely get fed, suffer frequent beatings and other cruel treatment. Cote d’Ivoire’s child laborers are robbed not only of their freedom but of the right to a basic education. In a country where more than half the population is illiterate, basic education takes on an even more critical significance for Cote d’Ivoire’s future. “I used to go to school,” said Marc Yao Kwame, who works with his brother Fabrice on a remote farm. “But my father has no-one to work on the farm, so he took me out of school.” In 2001, under pressure from the US Congress, the chocolate manufacturers promised to start eradicating forced child labour. They failed to meet an initial deadline of 2005, were given until 2008.
I’ve never heard of Fair Trade products until that day at the barn on the Catonsville campus. Never even knew there was a system actually called “Fair Trade” that worked in the equality of its workers and safety of young children. I think its ridiculous how all the companies that are out to promite well being, profits for under privledged countries are barely on the radar. I vaguely remember seeing Fair Trade products at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or some other speciality market. If you shop thee and buy Fair Trade, kudos, honestly. This Halloween, before you go out to your nearest Walmart or pharmacy for name brand candy and chocolate that has been around for years, take a second and think about what if it was your young brother or sister, son or daughter, working through their childhood all for a piece of candy. A piece of candy that doesn’t last more than 5 min, which it took at least 3-5 hours to get ready for processing.
Fair Trade means an equitable and fair partnership between global marketers and producers in Asia, Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world. A fair trade partnership works to provide low-income artisans and farmers with a living wage for their work.
Our consumer spending choices affect people’s lives around the world. The products we enjoy are often made in conditions that harm workers, communities and the environment. But increasingly consumers are demanding more humane, more environmentally sensitive products.
In today’s world economy, where profits rule and small-scale producers are left out of the bargaining process, farmers, craft producers, and other workers are often left without resources or hope for their future. Fair Trade helps exploited producers escape from this cycle and gives them a way to maintain their traditional lifestyles with dignity.
Fair Trade encompasses a range of goods, from agricultural products from the global South like coffee, chocolate, tea, and bananas, to handcrafts like clothing, household items, and decorative arts.
For more information, please visit these websites: http://www.globalexchangestore.org/Articles.asp?ID=135
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