Business students learn that fair trade is a thing
By Bianca Pasquel
Still haven’t stepped into the new Hughes Hall building? Afraid the Gabelli students can spot a Fordham College student from a mile away? (Your pride pin is showing.) Coming from a business student with no aspirations of working in an office on Wall Street after graduation, Hughes can be super intimidating. In fact, I have already had two classes in the $50 million building and I still haven’t been to the top floor for fear of smashing my dainty little head on its glass ceiling. I get it: the business world has not had the best track record when it comes to ethics, greed, equality in the workplace, money laundering, corruption… But there does happen to be a glimmer of hope in all of this, smack dab in the middle of Fordham’s own business school building.
Starting this semester, Fordham’s Fair Trade Club Amani will be selling a range of Fair Trade goods from a cart on the first floor of Hughes. From chocolates to earrings to wooden picture frames, Amani’s inventory comes from certified Fair Trade artisans around the world. For those of you who don’t know, Fair Trade aims to empower workers in impoverished nations by providing them with an outlet in which to sell their crafts. Without Fair Trade, these artisans will not be guaranteed a fair living wage, and greedy middle men are given the opportunity to mark up the products without giving any further profit to the worker. Amani’s cart is student-run and completely non-profit, with all income reinvested into making new orders for our artisan partners.
One of these partners is Trinity Jewelry Crafts, located in Kariobangi, one of the most impoverished areas of Nairobi, Kenya. The seven men and five women workers all participate in a profit-sharing plan and 10% of their earnings are set aside each month in a pension plan. By purchasing earrings, necklaces, keychains, or bracelets from the Amani cart, you are ensuring that there is food on the artisans’ tables, money for rent, clothing for their families, and most importantly education for the employees’ children. The jewelry products, ranging in price from $8 to $15, are all handmade with hammered elements, beads from local family bead producers, and traditional African beads.
Another artisan group Amani works with is Nyabigena Soapstone Carvers, located in Kisii, Kenya. Kisii is rich with soapstone quarries, and is well-known for the quality of its soapstone and skill of its carvers. The 120 employees in this group have also formed a school with profits from their work. The Nyabigena Mixed Day Academy, formed in 2007, now educates around 150 children through selling soapstone in international markets. As Patrick Ombui, soapstone carver and father of five, puts it, “I am very happy for the orders. I hope if our organization will be receiving prompt orders, my life and the lives of my children will change even more and more for the better.” Currently, the Nyabigena Mixed Day Academy is struggling to stay afloat, as the cooperative needs more orders. By purchasing products such as bowls, plates, statues, candle holders, and boxes, you can help clear Amani’s inventory, allowing the group make new orders.
Fair Trade is not about making a one-time donation to those in need. It aims to create a sustainable market for goods, allowing underprivileged men and women to lift themselves and their families out of poverty through their craft. Supporting Amani. So as you enter Hughes, try to avoid staring directly into the icy-eyed portrait of Mario Gabelli, and stop by the Amani Cart, to support Fordham Fair Trade initiatives. Fordham College students welcome!