Sunday, November 13, 2011

Awava Featured in the Kansas State Collegian at the Kansas State Fair Trade Marketplace!

Fair Trade Marketplace supports workers, educates public

The sixth annual Fair Trade Marketplace took place in the K-State Student Union Courtyard on Thursday afternoon. There were 15 vendors at the marketplace selling handcrafted goods from various Third World countries that promoted fair trade. The goods being sold included purses, handbags, necklaces, bracelets, scarves and blankets. The marketplace even featured entertainment, as a man was set up on a stage playing a sitar.

Fair trade is a social concept driven by markets that pay their workers, or artisans, a fair wage. This is contrary to the free trade concept, in which large corporations outsource work to other countries and pay their employees lower wages.

"The people that make these items, that produce these items, get paid a fair wage, as well as many other benefits," said Karen Pickett, director of Education and More, a non-profit organization that works out of Guatemala. "We set up sewing centers, stores, we educate their children. All of our profits go back down to Guatemala to help our artisans and their families."

The marketplace was sponsored by the Ecumenical Campus Ministry, a Christian student organization on campus. Abbey Pomeroy, marketplace coordinator for ECM and sophomore in interior design said ECM deals with many of the same issues that fair trade does.

"We try to help out those in more need than ourselves," Pomeroy said.

Pomeroy, who is in her first year of directing the event after being a co-coordinator last year, said she loves being able to help others.

"Giving appreciation to the artisans that made the product, which is so unique and beautiful, is important, too," Pomeroy said. "There is so much effort that goes into it, and so I like the meaning that is behind it."

One of the companies selling goods was AWAVA, which is a Luganda word for source or origin, is a fair trade company located in Uganda in east Africa. Kate von Achen founded the company and put local artisans in the impoverished African country to work and paid them fair wages. Pennie von Achen, Kate's mother, was on hand at the Union selling various handcrafted goods.

"The best way to empower the women in Uganda who live in poverty was to give them a marketplace," Pennie von Achen said. "They make all of these goods. Fair trade allows these women to get a fair, bigger share of the profit and it lifts them out of poverty."

One of the specialty products being sold by Minga Imports was tagua, a type of nut that can be crafted and made into goods, like jewelry. The sales and production of tagua helps reduce the poaching of elephant tusks.

"Tagua is very easy to access," said Marie Mitchell, the sales manager for Minga Imports who was on hand at the marketplace. "People can make carvings and hand dye the tagua, so it eliminates the need for poached ivory. Most of the tagua comes from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica."

There was also a lot of literature made available to the customers of the marketplace about fair trade. One of the pieces made available was "12 Ways You Can Support Fair Trade," while other literature explained the fair trade certified logo, which is found on products that meet various fair trade certification requirements.

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