Fairtrade Fortnight is a promotional campaign that takes place in the UK once a year to increase awareness and create a buzz around all things Fairtrade. Up and down the country schools, churches, towns supermarkets, etc. organize all sorts of activities to share stories and highlight the impact of consumer’s choices and to promote Fairtrade products.
This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight took place between the 23 of February and the 8th of March and my local activist group (the Edenbridge Fairtrade Town Group) decided to focus our local campaign on Fairtrade Cotton and to involve 4 of our local primary schools in a ‘Design a Fairtrade Polo Shirt’ competition.
The aim of the competition was for school children to make a link between the white polo shirt that they wear as part of their uniform and the profound impact that Fairtrade could have on the children and families of the farmers who produce its cotton.
We teamed up with Koolskools, a new and dynamic ethical school clothing company, whose mission is to establish an ethical supply chain that benefits everyone buying into it: producers, manufacturers and customers, and who are doing amazing work and filling a huge gap in the ethical consumer’s market.
I was really inspired by Mike Trood’s energy (one of its founding partners) who, through a fun and interactive workshop, explained what Fairtrade is to the children, and in general by Koolskools model, which is not only focused on the producer benefits but also on the future impact that can be achieved here in the UK by nurturing the new generations of ethical consumers and working with schools to raise awareness from an early age.
Switching to Fairtrade cotton uniforms seems to me like such an obvious choice for schools who are preaching (or should be preaching!) day in a day out about the importance of making positive choices that can make our world better place, but – as with everything – sadly the politics of procurement decision making processes seem to get in the way too often and we all need to keep working hard to challenge that.
Back to the competition though, it was wonderful to work with children and to witness their compassion and enthusiasm and some of the designs were incredible! I was even tempted to use them for the blog!
We had the difficult task of choosing a winner from each year per school, as well as overall winners for each age group, and thanks to our good friends from Divine Chocolates, Liberation Nuts and Traidcraft, who sent us some of their delicious products, we were able to award Fairtrade product goody bags (AGAIN, A MASSIVE THANK YOU) to 27 budding designers. We were also thrilled to have Helen Long, the newly appointed Campaigner from Liberation Nuts accompany us and help us in the award ceremonies.
Every Fairtrade Fortnight I, amazed by all the crazy events and inspiring activist groups and once more this year, I am left feeling proud of being part of this vibrant and ever growing movement of producers, consumers, companies and activists, who are taking the time in their lives to dedicate a little (or a lot) of their energy towards a fairer world.