Friday 06-05-2016 - 11:10
This is a guest blog written by Daisy Lindlar, Representation and Resources Officer at the University of Birmingham Guild of Students.
In January I was lucky enough to go on a trip to India to see how Epona, the NUS’ Fairtrade clothing company, works in practice. It was a hugely informative experience, and really opened my eyes to how relevant Fairtrade is to the student movement.
One of the things that struck me most is how similar Epona’s values are to the NUS’. Over the course of the week we saw the entire process of manufacturing clothing, from cotton being picked to garments being sewn, and at every stage you could see these values in action. Equal pay for men and women, improving access to education, and a fair, guaranteed wage are just some of the principles that Fairtrade supports.
‘No sexual harassment’ is another that was particularly close to my heart, and I’m sure this is something that would resonate with SU officers across the UK. The regular contact between the Fairtrade organisation, Epona and the factories ensures that these principles are upheld and not just empty words.
Like student unions and the NUS, Fairtrade also helps to strengthen communities. The communities involved in the Fairtrade process get given a ‘premium’ as part of their payment, and they vote on how this premium will be spent; what they do with the money is not dictated to them by an office in the UK with no idea what would really benefit them. During the trip to India, I saw various projects that have been funded by the premium, from steps into a bathing pool to make it safer for the elderly, to proper rucksacks to make the journey to school easier for children.
The way I see it, students’ unions and the NUS should be helping students leave university not only as graduates, but as socially responsible people who are aware of the world around them. This is why Fairtrade is so important. Buying Fairtrade clothes has real, tangible benefits across the globe. It is vital that we are educating our students on the impact of something as seemingly small as where they buy a hoodie.
We should be working together to ensure that all of the clothing our shops sell is Fairtrade and properly sourced. Yes, Fairtrade can be slightly more expensive than cheap high street brands; but when those few extra pounds are improving the lives of people in developing countries on the other side of the world, it still seems like a good deal to me.