Fair trade; the way to go?

“Sign to stop child labor”
So we do.
You probably don’t get the same petitions as I, if you don’t live in Australia (or, in this case, 10 minutes drive from the driving force behind the initiative). Now this is based upon the protocol that was laid down, the Harkin-Engel Protocol.Basically the protocol acknowledged that the use of child labor, unsafe practices, unfair wages etc. was going on, and was witnessed by heaps of people, companies, all that jazz. So the aim was to stop it.
Essentially the cocoa petition sets about to solve the issue through petition (go figure…), and has aimed at getting people to sign to what they call the acknowledged solution. “Fairtrade”. Now fairtrade in itself is an important thing. And the conditions that these kids are working in are terrible; pesticides, no education, using dangerous equipment, it’s shocking. There are many child slaves undergoing forced labor, and that’s simply discgraceful.
BUT WAIT. Before you go and sign the treaty, have a think.
Not all these kids are slaves. Some of them are getting paid a pittance to do highly unsuitable work. If we say “No more child labor”, what happens to the families who rely completely on that small amount to survive?

I have a friend who grew up in Africa, and in her parent’s missionary and aid work, she heard of and experienced many of these sorts of things. Whilst I had just signed away on the principal of it, she refused to sign. Why? She believes that it is better to have children in unfair employment is better than having the child’s family die. Sure, the slavery has to be ended, and these children need to have a chance and a life. But getting the cocoa harvesters to stop paying them at all is not the solution

So what do we do? Nothing? No. Sign the petition if that’s how you feel. But think, before you do, think carefully about what will actually solve the problem.
I’m still working out where I stand on this. Something has to be done; people need to be treated as people, not as possessions to be manipulated. Fair trade is a good thing. Buy it. But maybe write a letter, or send your own petition in to the companies themselves; use the millions you make, not on advertising, but to give something back to the people who are ACTUALLY making your product.

Let me know what you think. Are you in line with my friend, or the cocoa petition? Should we set up a web petition to send to the companies or governments? Is simply stopping the companies using unacceptable employment terms (as cadbury has promised for Australia) going to make things better or worse?


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