【明報專訊】Do you know what fair trade is? Many workers in poor countries are being exploited (剝削). What they produce fetches (賣得) low prices. Fair trade allows them to get reasonable prices for their products so that they can extricate themselves from (擺脫) poverty and live better lives.
Fair Partners, a non-profit-making organisation that promotes fair trade, launched in October 2007 a "Fair Trade Student Ambassadors Program" to increase awareness of fair trade among university students. Twenty Student Ambassadors from University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) have been chosen.
The "Fair Trade Student Ambassadors Program" offers workshops and training camps aimed at familiarising their participants with the concept of fair trade and fostering (培養) their leadership skills.
"At one of the workshops, we formed four groups and had role-playing games. We played economists, businessmen, farmers and NGO (non-governmental organisation) activists. I learnt about others' perspectives on fair trade. For example, while business people may prefer a free market, farmers prefer fair trade," said Michelle Yeung, one of the HKIEd Student Ambassadors.
Firsthand experience in Thailand
A one-week Exposure Trip to Thailand took place during the New Year holiday in 2008. During the week, Student Ambassadors gained firsthand experience when they visited fair trade organisations and interacted with workers there. For example, they went to Green Net, the biggest organic and fair trade cooperative (合作社) in Thailand, and Rice Fund Surin, a smaller rice cooperative. They came to know how they operated and made decisions. During their meetings with farmers, Student Ambassadors were told how fair trade had affected their lives. They lived with their host families for two days and helped them with their farm work and household chores. That gave them a good opportunity to experience Thai people's lifestyle.
One of the fair trade organisations that the students visited was Thai Craft. Carter Chim, a HKU senior (四年級生), said, "We have seen Thai women making handicrafts with recycled materials like newspaper and magazine paper. Their spirit did impress me. They don't want any handouts (施捨). They want to earn their own living." Carter believes fair trade may help workers to live decent (像樣的) lives.
Buy products with the Fairtrade Mark
"People should get what they deserve. The fair trade concept isn't hard to understand," said Rebecca Lau, a HKU sophomore (二年級生). "Now I use fair trade products - butter, jam and chocolate. I encourage my friends and family to do the same." Fair trade products bear the Fairtrade Mark, a label awarded by Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO). A Fairtrade Mark on a product is proof that its producers comply with FLO's Fairtrade Standards.
Kelsey Zhang, a year-one HKIEd student who comes from Beijing, said she had learnt a lot in the programme. "I never heard about fair trade until I joined the programme. Now I have a better idea of the concept. We usually complain when things are expensive. Now I know things that are inordinately cheap may not be fair trade products. People that made them might have been exploited."
The Fair Trade Student Ambassadors are now planning a series of activities to promote fair trade. Next March will see a "Fair Trade Week" in HKU and HKIED. Carter said he and other students were writing proposals and they hoped to turn HKU into a "fair trade university". Michelle said she planned to write teaching plans about fair trade with a view to giving primary and secondary students an idea of fair trade.
What is fair trade?
"Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, disadvantaged producers and workers -especially in the South. Fair Trade organisations (backed by consumers) are actively engaged in supporting producers in raising awareness and campaigning for changes in the rules and practices of conventional international trade."
(Source: Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International)
Fair Trade Week @ HKU
Date: 10th March - 14th March
Activities: Debates, film appreciation, seminars, a bazaar of fair trade products
Fair Trade Week @ HKIEd
Date: Late March (the date is to be announced)
Activities: Seminars, exhibitions, a bazaar of fair trade products
Text: Bonita Lee
Photo: Bonita Lee, Fair Partners