On January 20, United Against Human Trafficking joined with Fair Trade Houston to celebrate Houston’s designation as the first Fair Trade Town in Texas. Fair trade vendors were in attendance, to help educate Houstonians on how labor trafficking can exist in our local communities, and how we all as consumers contribute to global labor trafficking.
People attending learned about food imports such as bananas, coffee, sugar, and chocolate – and how slavery and forced labor can sometimes be apart of this supply chain. People were also invited to take a survey on how to measure their Slavery Footprint, to evaluate how everything we consume – from electronics to clothing – can potentially be a product of slave or sweatshop labor. The goal was not to induce guilt, but to educate on how there are alternatives: items that have attained a Fair Trade Certification, or are direct trade, have monitored and implemented a system of accountability and transparency in every step of production, from raw materials harvesting to product building. Fair trade and direct trade also means that ethical labor standards are enforced, such as providing safe working conditions and paying livable wages. By hosting vendors of socially conscious fashion and fair trade coffee and chocolate, the Fiesta was able to provide alternatives that both sustain people in developing nations – such as survivors of sex trafficking or artisan women of indigenous communities – while also supporting farmers and livable wages for those who harvest coffee and chocolate. Check out our instagram post to see photos of all the vendors!
What does it mean to be a fair trade town? Kendra Penry of Fair Trade Houston has worked to attain this designation since 2011, and helped establish a steering committee among Houston organizations, to raise community and business awareness of fair labor practices in our city. In October 2017, Mayor Sylvester Turner made an official declaration of Zero Tolerance for human trafficking in City service contracts and purchasing, helping Houston earn the designation as the first Fair Trade Town in Texas because of this local government support.
Becoming a conscious consumer is the first step to ending labor trafficking in our world; according to International Labor Organization’s 2017 estimates, 24.9 million people are victims of forced labor. These victims are forced into unpaid service labor, making our clothing, harvesting the raw materials for our clothing, food and coffee, and mining the metals for our electronics. As consumer, we hold the power to demand of corporations how they produce their products and treat their workers. Check out Fair Trade Campaigns, to learn more about how you can be a conscious consumer.