I used to believe human trafficking was a far removed issue in my life. Sure, it happened in America, but not anywhere I knew, and certainly not in my own home.
I never gave much thought to how I was fueling trafficking until I noticed a “Made in Thailand,” on a dress I was trying on at a store I’d shopped at for years. How had I never noticed that before? Those words haunted me as I’d recently returned from living overseas. My mind flooded with faces of the people I’d met in Thailand, their warm smiles, their names but most of all their stories. For the first time, this label held meaning because I could identify.
Turns out, so many of the things I purchased and consumed in my daily life were products of slavery. I realized it was one thing for me to believe that slavery was wrong, but another entirely to make conscious choices to see its end.
Some things I realized along the way.
- Fair Trade doesn’t mean you have to wear a paper bag. I hate to admit it, but this was my biggest fear. I was convinced buying fair trade meant giving up any sort of fashion sense I had, that I’d have to wear ugly clothes and stop shaving. Turns out, there are a ton of great fashion options in fair trade. I’ve grown to love how unique these items are.
- I spend less money. This seems confusing because the biggest complaint I hear about shopping fair trade is that it’s more expensive, and it is, because we are paying people fair wages. I’m not going to lie, often times choosing to pay $2 more for fair trade sugar felt upsetting to my already tight budget. However, I noticed that I quit spending as much money on clothes because I was carefully researching companies, supply lines and options only to find I didn’t really need another skirt.
- It doesn’t have to overtake your entire life. When I first began to research supply chains, and items commonly using trafficking I felt utterly overwhelmed, and paralyzed at the smallest purchase. Start small; I began by swapping my morning cup of coffee for fair trade coffee. I took time to research places that carried fair trade items and slowly added them into my daily life. I’m still researching and finding better ways to continue fighting slavery with things I buy. But realizing every purchase makes a difference I began to not feel so guilty all the time and that by choosing to purchase fair trade coffee meant I was taking a step in the right direction.
- I saw the difference purchasing fair trade could make. I had the incredible opportunity to visit India at the beginning of the year for a special collaboration with anti-trafficking organization, Rahab’s Rope. I was having makeup bags made for my makeup company, Radiant Cosmetics (shameless plug). I got the chance to meet the women, who were at-risk to trafficking, and who made the makeup bags. I got to hear their stories, meet some of their families and friends and see just how big of an impact a small purchase could make on someone’s life. For a while I saw fair trade and being a conscious consumer as a chore that I was obligated to do because I knew about the impact of consumerism on slavery. It was here I began to see that I wasn’t making a purchase, I was choosing to invest in people’s lives.
I hope you’ll consider taking a look at things you currently purchase and consume and consider making some switches to supporting organizations that are doing great work. Most of all I hope you find the value in choosing to invest in people to help put an end to modern day slavery. If you’re on pinterest we’ve got some boards devoted to books you can read as well as Fair Trade resources.