A trip to India and a new pair of jeans set Libby Sanders on a quest to understand more about ethical shopping.
It all started with a $12 pair of jeans. I’d just returned from a trip to India and needed some clothes for Sydney’s cooler weather.
As I left the shopping centre, congratulating myself on finding a bargain, I had a moment of realisation:
That’s a lot of work, by a lot of people – for just $12.
Making jeans requires a huge chain of production, from growing the cotton, to spinning and weaving it into fabric, then dyeing, sewing, transporting internationally, and eventually marking-up the cost for sale in the shop I’d found them.
Then I found my mind going back to some boys I had met a week earlier in India.
I had travelled to see World Vision’s work in urban areas of India. Along with the challenges of extreme poverty, India is home to a huge child and slave labour ‘industry’, as well as being a source and transit country for human trafficking to other countries. This problem is particularly common in the ever-growing urban slums.
I walked into a dark room in a slum, to find young boys beading saris; they worked 11-hour days, seven days a week sewing beads. They worked instead of studying or playing, trying to pay off family debts that grew every day from increasing interest charges.
These boys were essentially slaves in bonded labour. They were just eleven years old.
Back in my Sydney shopping centre, I realised children and adults like these had more than likely been exploited to produce the cheap pants I’d just bought.
This realisation went on to have a pretty huge impact in my life. I began researching thoroughly about the issues in the clothing industry (of which there are many, both socially and environmentally) and also in other areas of global production. The problems seemed enormous but I decided to take small steps toward becoming an ethical shopper.
I looked for new ways to buy, tried to value living with less ‘stuff’, and chose recycled or fairly produced products and clothing whenever I could. I even began writing a blog, Collection of Good, to share ideas with friends and start promoting ethical consumption. It’s now something I’m hugely passionate about.
Taking part in World Vision’s Abolitionist Sunday each year is another way I have spread the word about this issue. If you don’t know about it, it’s an annual day bringing churches together in prayer and action to fight slavery and other exploitation in the world. This year, it’s being held on Sunday 24 November.
It’s just one day, like so many others. But it’s another opportunity to grow in our understanding of this issue, to choose to act and share our growing knowledge to help others.
We are all ‘consumers’. By owning this and making informed choices about our everyday consumer choices we can help to alleviate poverty and prevent exploitation. How empowering and humbling is that?!