Fiona (centre) leads an ethical shopping tour.
As a mother of five young children, life can be pretty busy. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and not think beyond my own life and local community.
Yet about 12 months ago I heard Jess Groszek, who heads up the “Unshackled” team at New Hope Baptist in Melbourne, speak about slavery in today’s world. I was shocked at the numbers of people estimated to be enslaved in forced labour.
At first, the problem seemed too huge to even imagine that I could make any difference. Then I read a book called “Refuse to do nothing” which was about two ordinary mums deciding to become advocates on behalf of those who had no voice. I suddenly knew that I must do something – no matter how small – in my world, right now.
I decided to start with the choices I was making as a consumer. I couldn’t stand the thought that I was getting a “great bargain” when the person who made my “bargain” wasn’t getting paid enough to support their family. I wanted to be part of the solution not the problem.
I spent some time reading the Baptist World Aid Fashion Report and was shocked that some of my favourite retailers were among the worst offenders. I had no idea that so many of my clothes could be tainted by forced and child labour. Using the Fashion Report as a point of reference I decided to write to the retailers where I had been shopping. I wanted to express my concerns and find out if they had addressed any of the issues that had been raised in the report. Several of the retailers responded to my enquiries and it was great to hear that many of them had been making significant changes since the release of the Fashion Report.
Spurred on by what I had learned, I wanted to help educate others too. So over the past few months I have been involved in helping with the “Unshackled” ethical shopping tours at a large shopping centre nearby. We start by talking about the issue of human trafficking and slavery and then take small groups of shoppers into different shops – encouraging them to use the Fashion Guide to assess different brands and think about the choices they are making.
The more pressure put on retailers to ensure the people who produce our products are paid a decent wage and work in good conditions, the better. Our aim is to inspire many people to take action so that together we can make a big impact.
If you live in Melbourne, we would love you to come on our shopping tours so you too can make informed choices and take action. The tours are held once a month and also include a visit to a supermarket. Information can be found at facebook.com/unshackling
Join others in saying “no” to a world where men, women and children are exploited for profit. Register your church for Abolitionist Sunday.