Inspiring alternatives - Reflections on Fair Trade fortnight


Now that Fairtrade Fortnight is over, it is good to reflect on the event and recall what we heard and learnt from our visiting producers.

It was Pamela, our seamstress from Craft Aid Mauritius, who had never travelled out of her country or spoken in public before who inspired and uplifted everyone, everywhere she went. Pamela spoke movingly at our Fair Trade Festival in Summerhall of the hardship she endured working in a textile factory in Mauritius where she started at 14 years of age. She had to work seven days a week, starting at 7am and working until she finished her quota of 1,000 Tee shirts or other garments, sometimes finishing at 11pm. She did not get Christmas Day off.  Due to the long hours she had little time to care for her baby daughter or husband so her marriage broke down and her husband asked her for a divorce, “this moment destroyed my life”. She vowed never to work in textiles again but a friend encouraged her to come to an interview at Craft Aid, the Fair Trade organisation. She was surprised to see workers wearing masks and uniforms and there were no children working there. She got the job and enjoys working only five days a week, having a lunch break and being in a “place of safety”. “I want to go to work, it’s like a family”, she says, breaking out into a warm smile,  “please remember, that behind every garment you buy, there is a human story, many human stories, like mine”.

Summerhall Gabriel, Pamela, Baillie Melanie Main and Andy From Kool Schools
Leith Primary Andy from Kool Schools with Gabriel, Pamela, Lily, Bruna and Mairi from Leith Primary School and Dawn Maloney

Gabriel Kamudu, the Managing Director of Craft Aid also joined us in Edinburgh and told us how and why he started up the company. It started in 1982 when he was 24 years old; he was a Christian and wanted to put his faith into practice. “I wanted to train up and give work to disabled people and bring abled and disabled people to work together. I started with five people”. Many disabled children in Mauritius are hidden or beaten and have no prospects of work when they grow up. Now Craftaid is a thriving company and over 30% of the workforce is disabled.

Pamela Pamela shares her experiences with St Thomas Aquins Pupils

Craft Aid supplies sugar, cards and clothing to Traidcraft, the Body Shop and many other companies in the UK as well as the One World Shop. They also supply Fair Trade cotton school uniforms to Koolskools , an ethical clothing company based in Southampton. Andy Ashcroft from Koolskools accompanied Gabriel and Pamela to their talks to schools, churches, shops, council buildings and to their final presentation at the Scottish Parliament.