“At its heart, slavery is an inhuman perversion of a simple economic principle: the best way to maximize profits is by minimizing the cost of labor. In today’s global economy, the seemingly inexhaustible demand for cheap goods and services has created a vast, largely invisible market for easily replenished supplies of men, women and children who are forced to work against their will, for little or no pay, and under constant threat of violence or intimidation.”
Abdul and Miguel work tirelessly all day to produce cocoa and sugar, unpaid, beaten, and scared—all to maximize profits and help consumers save insignificant amounts of money. These children are not alone. Other children, men and women are enslaved in the US and around the world for the value of a dollar, but not for their own dollar and not for their own life. Fikre, a farmer in Ethiopia explains, “we know that our quality is good, but prices for us have been so bad.”
So, is the dollar per item I would have saved at the grocery store worth supporting modern-day slavery? No. There are other options. Consumers should educate themselves about goods or services that derive from modern-day slavery; items such as sugar, bananas, coffee, and tea. Online sites can explain these items (http://www.productsofslavery.org/), as well as items that use Fair Trade (http://fairtradeusa.org/). Therefore, leading consumers to companies such as Wholesome Sweeteners, Thanksgiving Coffee, and Teavana—whom use their positions in the marketplace to make a positive impact. Including the use of co-ops in Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Uganda to improve the lives of families, such as Antonio who is now able to afford clothes and medicine. The reason: Fair Trade prices improve their quality of life.
Fair Trade “empowers farmers to get a fair price for their harvest, helps workers create safe working conditions, provides a decent living wage and guarantees the right to organize.” Fair Trade standards also protect individuals through limited use of agrochemicals, and by strictly prohibiting child labor, forced labor, and discrimination.
I think of the better life Abdul and Miguel would have if consumers switch their purchases from unethical companies who buy cocoa and sugar from farms that use child labor and forced labor, to companies like Divine chocolate. Then, Abdul and Miguel could have a chance to live with their families and friends, in a safe place, attending school, and being children. We can see the impact fair trade purchases can have on the lives of children and a community through stories like Jennifer’s. Jennifer’s father works in a Fair Trade co-op, and in turn, she is able to receive an education in a safe and healthy environment. Children like Jennifer dream of being nurses and helping their community. This is a result of freedom, because freedom provides the avenue for dreams to become an obtainable reality. Albert Einstein illuminates this message when he says, “Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.”