Wednesday 02-03-2016 - 10:10
Daisy Lindlar is Representation & Resources Officer at University of Birmingham Guild of Students and in January she visited India to see the work of our Fairtrade clothing company Epona. During Fairtrade Fortnight, we caught up with her about the impact that Epona has, and why students’ unions should support Fairtrade.
How did you get first involved in Epona?
I first became aware of Epona through my involvement in my students' union - although we don't run our own clothing outlet, all our staff uniforms are supplied by Epona due to our Fairtrade commitments. I first became involved when I was appointed to the NUS' Services Board (after my election to the NUS Extra Direction and Oversight Board).
What impact does Epona have on communities in India?
Epona has a really positive impact on the communities it works with, from the cotton farmers right up to the workers in factories that produce the garments. It provides financial security for workers, meaning a more stable life for them and their families. This in turn strengthens communities, particularly those in rural areas, as it means that parents don't need to leave their children behind to go and seek work in cities. The Fairtrade premium that is gained through working with Epona also helps to improve the standard of living in communities. For example, we visited one village where steps had been built down to the bathing ponds using the money from the Fairtrade premium, as the banks had previously been slippery and this was a safety hazard. Working with Epona also encourages factories to maintain good working conditions.
What struck you most during your visit to Epona?
What struck me most was the realisation that Fairtrade isn't just about ensuring a fair wage for workers. Of course that is a big part of it, but there's also so much more to it in terms of benefiting the lives of those involved in it. We saw how the Fairtrade premium has allowed children to attend better schools, and be better equipped to go to those schools. For example, it was discovered that children were taking their books to school in large tins, so the money was used to buy them school rucksacks. There is actually so much more depth to Fairtrade than most people realise, and I feel so fortunate to have seen first-hand the benefits that it actually has.
How important is it that students’ unions sign up to Fairtrade?
I really believe in the power of SUs to help their students grow and learn. One of the biggest parts of this is developing students into socially responsible individuals who will be able to have a positive impact on the world. This is where I think Fairtrade comes into it; SUs should be pushing the importance of Fairtrade to their students, and encouraging them to see the impact that a decision so seemingly small as where you buy your t-shirts can have. Not many students will be lucky enough to go and see for themselves the positive impact of Fairtrade; it is up to SUs to inform their students about why it is so worthwhile. It also really strikes me that the values of SUs and the values of Fairtrade are so similar; a fair wage, gender equality, better education, higher living standards... The work of Fairtrade organisations and the work of SUs are so similar, and they should therefore be supporting each other.
For more information on how your SU can work with Epona, get in touch with Tom.Andrews@eponaclothing.co.uk