The fashion industry is dominated by woman. From the factory workers, right through to the models and designers; women are front and centre, they are the driving force. Yet amongst all of this, there is a group of women who are almost totally ignored, completely out of view to the rest of the world. They find themselves in a dire situation… but is there a saving grace for them?
At Tummah Ethical Trade, our goal is to see change in the New Zealand fashion market. Our passion is for more than that though, there is an underlying desire that drives this mission. It’s not that we only want to see Fairtrade certified products on shelves, but more accurately, we want to ensure that products stocked in New Zealand are made by workers who are making a decent living. Instead of factory workers being burdened by making products for the West, we believe they should be able to view work as an opportunity for a better life for themselves. Where they are respected and treated fairly in the workplace; treated as humans instead of components. Paid what they deserve to ensure they have enough food, a shelter over their heads, and the opportunity for their children to get an education. Nothing extravagant by any means; merely the necessities, the things we take for granted here as a right.
A better life not only for the factory workers, but for the cotton farmers too. Cotton farming in India is massive, and it drives the textile industry. Cotton buyers possess great control in their relationship, and often abuse this. However, there are some awesome traders who are making the difference, those part of the Fairtrade movement. It is through these trades that we get Fairtrade certified cotton. A movement that is life changing for the farmers that are a part of it, the lucky ones. Unfortunately, the vast majority of cotton farmers do not have access to these opportunities. Even so, a favourable harvest and strong cotton price can still see then get by alright. These farmers are in the middle ground, because there are some still far worse off.
Cotton farming is many people’s entire livelihood in India. However, due to poor recommendations, the introduction of GMO seeds, and excessive use of chemicals; these people are on the edge and a little misfortune can spell disaster.
This is the third group of farmers. The desperate farmer, those who have lost all hope. They are… the statistic. In financial ruin and with no way to pay creditors back, they resort to taking their own lives, the only escape they see for themselves. How bad is this issue, you may be thinking? The following quote shows the extent of this disgraceful problem. It’s startling, and it is still happening in India today!
The forgotten widows. Those left behind by their desperate husbands, who often take a deadly drink from the very chemicals they cannot afford. These women, alone and indebted, are discarded and often left to fend for themselves. Forgotten, with not much left to live for. There is little or no government support for them, and the fact their husbands are no longer around does not excuse them from their loans. They find themselves in one of the hardest positions imaginable, with no obvious way out.
These women are still farmers, it’s what they do and all they know. But as you can see, income from cotton farming can be very unreliable, and the consequences extreme. They need additional income in order to run their households, that is where Once Upon A Doug helps.
This is where Doug comes in.
- The women get free training and free raw materials for making these clouds, which they hand stitch in their spare time.
- They are paid for every Doug they make, plus 100% of the money raised goes back to the community for supporting local projects.
- In addition to this income, there is also an increased sense of confidence & independence in each of the women involved in this project.
- It empowers them and helps to pay off their debts; and reduces the stress to pay for school fees for their kids and medical bills for their families.
Once Upon A Doug is one of those things you see and think WOW. People are going out of their way, to ensure these forgotten widows are no longer forgotten. For the women in this program, this is genuinely life changing; often the only chance they have to support their families and get out of debt. I love the slogan for the movement – ‘Every Doug is a cloud with a silver lining.’ It’s true, and how many other accessories can lay claim to making such a difference in the producers lives!
Our reason for starting Tummah Ethical Trade was to give New Zealand consumers confidence that the producers of the clothing they were purchasing are making a fair living. However, this only impacts a lucky few that are directly involved, and for us, that’s not enough. We want to go further and give more women a decent chance at life, to reach even more people. That is why we are partnering with Once Upon A Doug! To give these determined women hope; show those in some of the worse situations imaginable – widows, single parents, indebted – that they are not forgotten. Let them see that life is indeed worth living, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. And to meet the challenge put forward in this final quote from No Nasties.
“Anyone truly aware of what is going on would not continue to ignore this crisis. If you had a viable alternative, you would choose it. An alternative that doesn’t ask you to change your lifestyle, but meets you where you’re at and matches your fashion and design sensibilities.”