Wednesday 09-03-2016 - 17:17
Evette Prout is Development Officer at Sheffield Students’ Union 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?
After being elected to sit on the NUS Services board I was offered an amazing opportunity to become involved in NUS trading and commercial services. From that I was asked to look into the clothing company Epona, and when I learnt about them I thought it was an amazing opportunity to become involved. As a Christian I felt God had bought this opportunity and I was so privileged to be asked to go to India with the team.
What impact does Epona have on communities in India?
Epona really helps to support livelihoods in villages where children want to go to school. It helps children go to school and increases their educational opportunities. Helping the community to sustain themselves is a great thing that Epona is a part of. For example they were able to build steps into their bathing pond which stopped accidents, especially among the elderly. There are a whole range of ways that the Fairtrade premium supports the community.
What struck you most during your visit to Epona?
I was really struck by how happy people can manage to be without as many material goods. They appreciate what it means to be a community, to live together and work together for the betterment of everyone. They are really deprived in lots of ways, but they are not deprived in terms of community spirit. It is very important to remember that and use that spirit over here, coming together as a community. The NUS can be that for students, to drive change and bring people together.
How important is it that students’ unions sign up to become Fairtrade?
I think it is very important. Students’ unions are there to represent students and to be a force of social change in our society. If we want change in society then we need to practice what we preach; whatever we want to see in the public realm we have to do ourselves. So supporting an ethical supply chain, a living wage and good working practices are things that any public organisation should be doing, and Fairtrade is a great way of doing that.
What have you been doing to mark Fairtrade Fortnight?
We have a massive banner in the SU to remind students about the fortnight. People and Planet are doing a swap shop to highlight the issues of Fairtrade and our outlets have been really supportive. Our coffee outlet is Fairtrade and has put forward special deals and we are generally promoting these discussions among students. It shouldn’t just be confined to two weeks, but we are using it as an opportunity to highlight the work of Epona and the importance of Fairtrade.