I open the box the mailman just delivered and begin to grin. I pull out a beautiful bronze necklace and hold it up for my sisters to see. I think it’s charming, so I plan tomorrow’s outfit around it. I wear my new necklace to the office, post it on Instagram. The jewelry, along with the tote bag, are all handmade by women in developing countries. They create these accessories as a way to support themselves and their families. In 2007, The Ministry of Women and Child Development reported the presence of over three million female sex workers in India. 35.47 of these “workers” are thought to enter the trade before the age of eighteen. An estimated 1.2 million children are kept as sex slaves in India, though all prostitution is technically illegal there. Dignified work is hard to come by.
New jewelry complements my nice outfit, including the t-shirt I bought at Forever21 before I knew that Forever21 knowingly uses slave labor to manufacture their merchandise. Something new to wear can make you feel like “the fairest of them all,” but when I look at the dimly-lit image of my torso, toting those three pendants, my heart begins to beat a little harder. I think of the tawny hands, pressing those clasps together. The pendant reminds me of coins dropping into a worn palm, being carried to the market to buy food for her babies, her elderly mother, herself.
Fair Trade Friday isn’t a gimmick, because 100% of the profits go straight to the hands of the artisans. If you believe in teaching a man to fish, do you also believe in teaching a woman to sew? Most of these women do not have a man in their life to support them in anyway, some of them were sold as slaves as children, all of them face extreme sexual discrimination, and those are the girls who survive the “gendercide.”
I’ve talked before about what fair trade means to me, and I still lie awake at night, shaking my metaphorical fist in the air, complaining that “life is not fair!” But what is fair? Paying for what we’re getting is fair. Being paid for your work is fair. Being able to use your wages to support yourself and your family is fair. There is a great shadow over our planet, but there are sunspots on the path, little spots of hope, little spots of justice, little spots of fairness.
My fair-skinned hands hold the same cords that were crafted in the hands of my Indian sisters, Hem Lata, Yogesh and Karma, and didn’t Solomon say that a threefold cord is not quickly broken? So how about you become part of the cord? The three folds can be you, the Fair Trade Friday Club and a hardworking woman across the ocean like Hem Lata, Yogesh or Karma.
Does that sound fair?
The Fair Trade Friday Club exists to empower the women at Mercy House Kenya, as well as women in Ethiopia, Zambia, Costa Rica, India, Uganda, Rwanda, Honduras, Bangladesh, Haiti, Swaziland and Nicaragua.
When someone says, “where is that necklace from?” we answer with the name of a store, and maybe a quick mention of what a great deal we got on it. But that’s not where your necklace is from. We’ve long-been wearing slavery around our necks, donning oppression and adorning ourselves with exploitation. We have bought the poor for a pair of sandals, not stopping to ask how those sandals could cost us so little. The truth is, we aren’t paying full price.
The single mom in India is paying your share. The nine-year-old slave in Bangladesh is paying your share. The woman with AIDS, the woman who is pregnant again because her customers refuse to use condoms, the woman who just buried her fifth child—she is paying your share, and that isn’t becoming. It doesn’t wear well. It doesn’t flatter.
It’s time we paid for our products. Next time you see a great deal, think of Proverbs 22:16, “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” And when you see the true price of the product you want to buy, don’t balk. Think about Proverbs 14:31, “But whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him.”
A beautiful hand is one that reaches out and gives to the poor, a beautiful eye is one that sees the dignity in another, a beautiful body wears justice and the woman who doesn’t cheat and steal for the things she wears, she is the fairest of them all.
Would you consider partnering with us in this three-fold cord? The Fair Trade Friday Club is run by a handful of folks, so please forgive the fact that a waiting list is currently in use. Sign up now, and you’ll be notified when you can be accommodated. Also consider joining our Earring of the Month Club or donating to the empowering work being done at Mercy House Kenya.