World Fair Trade Day is a day designated to highlight the importance of fair relationships with the people who produce the products that we purchase. It is a day to acknowledge the farmers behind our food and the sewers behind our clothes, the people who work vigorously to provide us with our daily needs.
On this day fair trade communities around the world gather together to raise awareness about the harsh conditions that some of these people face, and their fight to obtain equal rights in the industries that have forgotten about them. Communities gather to promote the importance of traceability in their markets and share stories about the advantages fair trade can have for the people in their societies. Here, in downtown Cebu, Southern Partners and Fair Trade Centre (SPFTC) celebrate World Fair Trade Day by sharing and promoting products and stories from their fair trade partners in the Philippines’ Visayas regions.
It was a busy morning for the team at SPFTC. Drinks and snacks were generously offered to customers as they browsed through the Fair Trade Shop on Osmena Boulevard. Refreshments consisted of Calamansi or Mango juice, produced by fair trade farmers in the Toledo region. Morsels of dried mango balls and banana chips, produced by fair trade partners in the southern Aloguinsan region, were offered as snacks. Guests browsed through products sourced from all over the Philippines, including handicrafts sourced through Calajo-An and Ritazo Tingub, two women’s development organisations empowering women in disadvantaged urban communities of Cebu.
Ritazo Tingub showcased their popular range of assorted bags and wallets made out of scrap cloth, demonstrating how the women in urban areas find ways to turn trash into treasure. A representative for the organisation spoke with us about how their lives have changed since partnering with SPFTC - “Producing these products allows us to provide for our families, we can pay for our children’s schooling and have more money to live on. Since our partnership with SPFTC, our market has expanded and provided us with so much more opportunity”
Ritazo Tingub Women’s Workers Organisation is just one example in many of the ways that fair trade is helping marginalised communities out of poverty. According to the data from the National Statistical Coordination Board, in 2014 one in four people in the Philippines was living below the poverty line, on less than $1 per day. Sustainable solutions like fair trade relationships are one of the initiatives that could see many of those people out of that bracket.
“We have a commitment to serve and support, and to alleviate poverty. That is why we are here,” says Gigi, managing director of SPFTC. The group opened the shop here in Cebu City as a way to showcase and sell products produced by their community partners. They also grant shelf space for the products of the increasing number of other organisations in Cebu that are moving into fair trade. “It is a growing market, we are far from mainstream but more and more people are choosing fair trade options. It is all about awareness”
The team at SPFTC are certainly agents for change. Through their promotions this World Fair Trade Day they are hoping to spread the message ‘Don’t Just Buy, Buy Just’ and help to change the lives of farmers and workers not only throughout Cebu, but also throughout the whole of the Philippines.
Find out more at their website www.fairtradecebu.org