Thursday, September 29, 2011

FTF-I Fair Trade Summit in India: Promoting Fair Trade and Sustainable Consumption at Home

Many of us know that there are many organizations in the US which support fairly traded items from around the world. We, Awaz, sell items made by women's cooperatives in Northern India. Equal Exchange sources coffee and chocolate from countries including, but not limited to, Guatamala, The Dominican Republic, and Peru. These are efforts from other organziations that seek to gather groups together, by giving them the skills they need to succeed. However, there is more to the story.

There are efforts from within countries that are trying to build Fair Trade networks in their local areas. One such effort is the Fair Trade Forum - India (FTF-I).

FTF-I is the national network for Fair Trade in India. Through 75 member partners, FTF-I is reaching out to more than 100,000 grassroots level producers including artisans & farmers in India. FTF-I, as the Indian national network, is working in close coordination with WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization). FTF-I is also working as the country office of WFTO-Asia.

Last July, FTF - I formed a Summit on Sustainable Consumption. As the title suggests, FTF - I wanted to create a dialogue around promoting sustainable consumption within India--to create an environment in which every Indian is aware of the issues and solutions. Previously, FTF - I, in partnership with HIVOS, IRFT & Shop for Change launched "Pro Sustain" -- a project to promote Fair Trade & Sustainable Consumption in India. This particular summit was created with the idea of building alliances between organizations to promote fair trade and make sustainability practices common.

"There is a need for the industry, government, civil society, academia, [and] artisans to work together towards sustainable development and to promote sustainable production and consumption" --Parul Soni: Executive Director and Practice Leader, Development Advisory Services at Ernst & Young

The summit went well, and concluded with a networking discussion between local entrepreneurs, FTF - I, and their member organziations. There is still work to be done, however; these groups will still be promoting fair trade and sustainable consumption within their own country until they see it become a nation-wide reality.

It is important to realize that not only are changes happening in the US, but are also happening within the under-developed nations our programs support. Passionate people within India are working to improve their state in life, and by doing so are helping improve the area they live in--both socio-economically and environmentally.

UPDATE: Fair Trade Fortnight!
From 8 to 22 October Fair Trade Forum India has organized actions to promote Fair Trade and sustainable living. Events include awareness and education campaigns, sale of fair trade products, and panel discussions. You can read more about it here, and stay updated on FTF- I's facebook page.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NWFTC gives out FREE Reverse Trick-or-Treating Kits for Portland families this Halloween

Visit the NW Food Front location during the month of October to get your FREE reverse trick-or-treating kit! The Northwest Fair Trade Coalition, in partnership with Food Front Cooperative grocery in Northwest Portland, is providing Portland families with an alternative way to celebrate halloween. On Halloween night, children will hand candy back to the adults who answer their door at over 100,000 households nation-wide this Halloween. Children still get to enjoy the fun of going door-to-door, and in turn they can educate their neighborhood about the presence and availability of Fair Trade chocolates, and the issues that necessitate the need for fair trade items.

Reverse trick-or-treating is a national event that started fifty years ago to raise awareness of the child labor, forced labor, trafficking, poverty and environmental degradation that is widespread on cocoa farms. Through the campaign, children are making a stand that these exploitative practices will not be tolerated! Join us and Reverse Trick-or-Treaters around the country in reaching over 200,000 households this year!

Come down to the NW Food Front Cooperative at 2375 NW Thurman St. Portland, Oregon 97210.You can get maps and directions here. If you are unable to get your FREE kit, you can dowload and print off these flyers to distribute to houses and spread this important message.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

EJAG: Economic Justice Activism in Portland + new Fall Film Series

This blog is meant to not only be a place to follow AWAZ's work, but also a place to learn of new ways to become involved in social justice causes around Portland. AWAZ owner Sarah has been actively involved in a few local organizations as an organizer and supporter, one of which is EJAG. The Economic Justice Action Group (EJAG) strives to create a better world for everyone to live in--one that promotes health, well-being, and happiness for all.

EJAG is a part of the Social Justice Program of the First Unitarian Church of Portland. Their mission is “to raise public awareness and to take action on behalf of the citizens of our community, nation and world in order to: promote the supremacy of life-sustaining and life-enhancing values, promote fair and just economic policies and practices and work to overcome unfair policies and practices, promote equal access to economic opportunity, and to promote democratic participation in national, state and local decisions on economic issues”.

Because EJAG’s mission is carried out by its members, they are ever changing and adjusting to our economic times. Their current areas of focus include the following subgroups: Democracy, Health Care, Fair Trade, Real Wealth, and Tax Fairness.
Learn more about their efforts to reform the Mental Health System and support for local banking by visiting their website or attending their next meeting.

As a part of their mission statement, Sarah has been an active member in EJAG, as a representative of AWAZ and NWFTC. She is part of this group because it is a great group of local activists and organizers who pool resources to work together, and because it is a great place to start expanding your knowledge about current challenges today, no matter what your interest, and take action in support of local and global change. Their blog posts--often in conjunction with Alliance for Democracy--update you on current campaigns in the area that you can help support, and keep you informed of the latest issues important to you. If you feel moved to contact your representative in government, EJAG lends a helping hand by providing this

EJAG hosts a Fall Documentary Film Series that starts next Friday, September 30. The film is called “What a Way to Go”, and will be held at 6:30 at the Eliot Chapel. A synopsis can be found here. They have a great list of more movies they're showing, see below.
For even more information about Social Justice programs and EJAG, contact Rev. Kate Lore, Minister of Social Justice, at, and see their
calendar of events
, or the movie listings.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review of 'The Price of Sugar' shown by Portland Fair Trade group NWFTC: actions to take home

Last Thursday the Northwest Fair Trade Coalition (NWFTC) hosted the first in their Third Thursday film series aimed at educating the public about global economic injustice and promoting local fair trade businesses/organizations.

About 25 people showed up to watch “The Price of Sugar”. Sarah Mitts—AWAZ founder and Northwest Fair Trade Coalition member gave an informational presentation about fair trade and the ways people can get involved with the coalition; the movie helped to drive her point home about how the simple act of buying consciously can have such a global impact.

The movie focused on the exploitation of Haitian immigrant workers on sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic, and the story of one priest Father Christopher Hartley, who was trying to stand up for their rights. The sugar plantations are owned by the Vicini family who have a monopoly over the industry and are the main supplier of Dominican sugar to the U.S.

The Haitians who were smuggled across the border by plantation security end up living in slum communities on the plantations known as Bateyes, where most of the story takes place. They were promised good jobs and good pay; the promise of hope for their young children. However, they were stripped of their documents and identification cards, and were placed under armed guard once they got to the Bateyes and never allowed to leave. In place of money, they are paid in food vouchers that can only be redeemed at an expensive company store.

Father Christopher worked tirelessly to improve the living conditions for the Haitian immigrants. He brought in medical care, organized the workers into unions, created a food kitchen for the children, and lobbied the government to restore the worker’s documentation.

Unfortunately, Father Christopher was forced out of the Dominican Republic in 2006 after a large scale smear campaign funded by the Vicini family accusing the Father of Haitianizing the Dominican Republic. While the Haitians were brought in by the corporation to do slave labor, they company pitted the locals against the poor Haitians claiming they were taking local jobs from people. The local news media, funded again by the Vicini’s, encouraged an upsurge of nationalistic values across the country that created tension between locals and Haitians. You see the same situation with the Latin American immigrant workers in our country, which undoubtedly is the result of the need to continually find cheaper labor and keep the profit margins higher for corporations, at the expense of the people.

The sugar cane that these people are forced to cut down is processed into sugar that mostly goes to the US and ends up on shelves at our grocery stores. The workers are paid the equivalent of $0.01 per lb of sugar, while Americans pay $0.70 per lb of sugar in the store for their sugar.

Father Christopher remains in Europe as a campaigner for human rights for the Haitian workers. He maintains that "daily and systematic disregard for fundamental human dignity in the forms of “statelessness” (and its inherent lack of civil liberties), human trafficking, extreme poverty, child labor, racial discrimination, lack of education and health care, and general squalor” still occurs.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: shop fair

Afterward, the movie sparked a conversation among the community members about how they can shop more consciously and not support products that are made through slave labor. Buying products from companies who source through fair trade channels is one people-powered solution to creating change. One needs to be aware of the labels that promote fairly traded items, and bring that conversation to the table --with friends, supermarkets, etc—to bring these items into the mainstream.


Wholesome Sweeteners is one of the main sugar companies supplying fairly traded sugar from cooperatives in Paraguay that you can look for on your shelves!

For more information about the movie, or to host your own screening, please visit their website.

Partner with your local fair trade action group to host a screening in your community. Email nwfairtrade@gmail to inquire about a local screening at your church, etc.

NWFTC film series will continue on October 20th, with “A Thousand Fibers” about craft producers. You can watch the trailer here.

Fun on Foster Street Fair and Art Walk Saturday, Sept. 24

AWAZ will have a booth at the annual Fun on Foster street fair and art walk featuring our beautifully handmade artisan products from India. The event is this Saturday, Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Our booth will be located in Laurelwood Park on SE 64th St & Foster Rd.

Come check out our unique fashion accessories, kitchen and home decor items, greeting cards and support the artisan groups in India by purchasing these fair trade products. Meet Sarah, the founder of AWAZ and learn more about the great work she's doing in the fair trade movement and ways in which you can support the movement by getting involved.

Recycled Plastic Messenger Work Bag

Royal Elephant Batik Tapestry

Elephant Block Print Greeting Cards on Handmade Paper

Green Sprouts natural baby & family fest, Sunday, Sept. 25

Come see us this weekend, on Sunday Sept. 25, at the Green Sprouts natural baby & family fest at Peninsula Park in North Portland. We will have lots of great kids stuff and stuff for moms too!

Check out our fun colorful soft baby toys shaped like elephants, giraffes, and monkeys. We will have lots of other great stuff like one of a kind hand quilted baby blankets, backpacks, and kid's accessories.

Take a look at some of our favorite kids stuff in our online store: Community Garden Appliqued Baby Blanket exquisitely hand quilted by women artisans in the foothills of the Himalayas and Block Print Soft Elephant made by disabled artisans. Your purchases help support these artisans.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NWFTC Third Thursday Fair Trade Film Series begins in September in Portland

Last year, I helped get started the Northwest Fair Trade Coalition in Portland as a way to work with like minded fair traders to promote economic justice in our community. I can't help but to educate, share and bring people together to learn about ways we can challenge the injustice in our economic systems and create alternative, community driven ways to create change.

Thanks to some of my favorite educational shows and programs like "Democracy Now", Amy Goodman's independent news show and Mitch's Blog, "Journey for Fair Trade", I'm aware of how the deception in our international systems and commerce, consequences of my everyday actions and solutions I can take to make change.

Everyday I see how the terms of trade are jaded to benefit rich countries and how corporations and governments are perpetuating global poverty through unethical trade, raw material sourcing and exploitation. It's important for consumers to be aware and be able to make informed, educated decisions that are in align with their values. Follow us on Facebook to get up to date news information and resources, like this brief report by the Fair Trade Foundation titled "Why the Climate Revolution must be a Fair Revolution" showing the relationship between fair trade and environmental sustainability.
That's why our coalition is launching an educational film series for the public about economic justice. We hope you will join us and get familiar with the issues so you can see why Fair Trade is important!

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 10, Belmont Street Fair

Get out in the community and visit us at the Belmont Street Fair!

This year's Street Fair will be "Imagine" with a theme for a sustainable and creative community! A collaboration between BABA and the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association to run the big event is working diligently to make "Imagine" a Street Fair to remember.

So come and check out the fun and meet Sarah, the founder of AWAZ.
20% off products only at community events!

Noon to 8 pm! But come early, we likely won't be there that late!