Hello everyone, my name is Melanie and I am so excited for the opportunity to be a blogger with sariKNOTsari.
I first wanted to just introduce myself, talk about how I got involved in the fair trade movement, and what fair trade even is.
So it all started for me in India about four years ago. I went on a trip with my university for three weeks and this trip was part volunteering and part touring.
For the volunteering we were at an orphanage and we would have to walk about a half hour every day to the orphanage and back from the orphanage. And on this walk we would see a lot of things that would pull at my heartstrings – mothers with babies asking us for milk, men asking us for money, and little children who had made bracelets and necklaces asking us to buy them.
I became upset by all the homelessness there was in this country, all the beggars, it was hard to see.
Also on this walk we would see very well to do people. Coming out of their beautiful homes, very nicely dressed, walking into their luxury cars. And I started to feel a lot of anger and resentment towards these people and towards this country. So I started talking to our translator on the trip about how I was feeling.
Very judgemental, very outside of myself, thinking “How could these people do that? Why don’t they care about anyone? If they just cared there would be more of a middle class.” And she said to me “Well doesn’t the same thing happen in your country?”
And I had to step back. And I thought...you know what, it does.
And then I thought more inside of myself and the perspective turned around to what is happening in Canada. What’s happening in Hamilton? What am I doing every day to perpetuate injustices in my own city, in my own country, as well as abroad?
So I started to research different models to kind of even out this disparity. People who are all the way up here who have everything they could ever want and people who are all the way down here who don’t even have basic necessities every day.
I came across the model of fair trade. And once I learned about fair trade it was like a revelation. This is what I was meant to learn about, this is what I was meant to teach about. This is a great solution to problems in our world today.
So fair trade is exactly that. Items are fairly traded. I’ll give you an example: let’s say someone spends about 10 hours working on a product where the minimum wage is $10 an hour. They are going to get $100, maybe even $200. That would be fair. But often in our world this is not the case. Artisans are making $1 a day, maybe $10 a day in stores that we shop in all the time.
So I began to become involved in the fair trade movement in my university. I led a campaign for two years where we eventually became fair trade certified. And that was a great accomplishment for the school.
Then I went to Uganda and worked with artisans directly with a fair trade organization and I will talk about that amazing experience in another blog.
I also came home after that and started working at Ten Thousand Villages managing the store here. So I’ve had some great opportunities in the fair trade movement.
And I love this model! (Can you tell?)
Now I have gotten connected with Priya, founder of sariKNOTsari, and I have learned more about her model and it’s a beautiful store. So she supports local artisans, for example, soaps that are made in Hamilton out of recycled botanicals. And artisans abroad that work in India and make upcycled saris into beautiful pillows, scarves, dresses...everything you can imagine.
So, I’m gonna leave you with some homework today. I know it’s the first blog and we are already doing homework. But let’s start by thinking about where our everyday purchases come from. The coffee you are buying every day. Where do you get it from? Are the farmers paid well? Do you think they can afford to pay for their kids school fees? Unexpected health care costs?
When you’re looking at that cost of the coffee how much are you paying for it and could that cost be fair? Even asking the barista is this fair? Where does it come from?
Let’s start those conversations. Speaking of which I would love to hear your questions and comments below. What do you want to hear about? What do you want me to talk about?
Slow Fashion? Fair trade? Child Labour? Ethical sourcing? All of these topics I’m excited to deep dive into with you every week and get the conversation going! Thank you so much, I’m looking forward to it, bye!