Love is in the air this time of year, but something a lot less sweet is behind the chocolate and gifts many Americans are giving. Numerous corporations have promised to voluntarily end human rights abuses in their industries. Unfortunately, little has changed over nearly two decades in the chocolate and jewelry industry’s use of child labor and the garment industry’s unsafe working conditions.
BBC documentary filmmakers recently interviewed children in West Africa who said they’d been beaten and forced to work long hours without pay. When one was asked what he thought about people in other areas of the world enjoying the chocolate he harvested, he responded: “They are enjoying something that I suffered to make. They are eating my flesh.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can help make a difference.
“Almost everyone I know will agree that they do not support child labor, yet only a small fraction of those consumers ensure that the products they are buying do not support child-labor practices,” says Manish Gupta, founder of Matr Boomie, who has over a decade of experience working for fair trade in India.
Here’s what you can do: Learn more about why fair trade matters and change habits.
- Take a deep-dive and read this recent piece by Fortune magazine that examines the problem of millions of West African children still out of school and working in cacao farms.
- Watch this excellent short video from Equal Exchange, explaining the difference between conventional chocolate and fair trade chocolate.
- Share these resources with your networks and congregations.
- Buy only fair-trade chocolate. You don’t have to give up celebrating, but you can commit to ending worker- and child-abuse by directing your purchasing dollars to ethically sourced goods. Ensure the gifts you give to loved ones show the same deep concern for the people along the supply chain. Collective action will help push the industry to make necessary changes, so always choose fair-trade products and slave-free chocolate.
- Keep up-to-date with this issue by continuing to learn more on our blog.