Image: She Deserves  A Living Income


The focus of this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight is cocoa, women and living income. Margaret McGowan reflects on the effects of the cocoa price crisis.

Many farmers, men and women, are underpaid and so exploited that they can’t earn enough for the basics most of us would take for granted  - such as education, housing and food - simply because they don’t earn a living income. Women’s situation is worse because they are often overlooked and under-represented. They can often receive even less money for their crop.
It is more important than ever, therefore, to remember why Fairtrade is so important. It can’t solve everything, but we must fight the injustice at the heart of the multibillion-pound chocolate industry.
Fairtrade Fortnight, from February 25 to March 11, this year themed
‘She Deserves a Living Income’, highlights the plight of women cocoa farmers.
In West Africa, £1.86 is a living income. Currently, a typical cocoa farmer in Cote d’Ivoire lives on around 74p a day. Almost all cocoa farmers in West Africa live in poverty. For the women the situation is even worse. Fairtrade’s three-year campaign hopes to encourage everyone in the cocoa sector, from consumers and businesses to governments, to play their part in making a living income a reality for cocoa farmers. 
Pope Francis has condemned modern-day slavery of 11 million men, women and children and urges us to action.

Speaking to consumers, he said “… we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others. Some of us, out of indifference, or financial reason or because we are caught up in our daily concerns, close our eyes to this. Others, however, decide to do something about it.”

He added, “I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will … not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters…The globalization of indifference … requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them to advance.”

Fairtrade offers a powerful response to Francis’ challenge to “do something”.  Independent inspectors certify that Fair Trade products are free from exploitation. The Fairtrade logo ensures just wages and safe working conditions that combat poverty.
When we make the conscious choice to purchase Fairtrade items, we put Catholic social teaching values into action, working to realise our vision of economic justice.
Brexit means our trade rules will be rewritten and new trade deals negotiated. Big changes ahead will affect not only us but also millions of farmers and workers from the world’s poorest countries who rely on trading with us. The Trade and Customs Bill returned to parliament last July. Almost 3,000 Fairtrade supporters emailed their MPs before the third reading, asking them to vote to amend the Trade Bill to include a democratic and transparent process for negotiating our future trade deals. It was close, but sadly the amendment lost by 30 votes.

The future is unclear, but let’s work with the Fairtrade Foundation and activists to get the best possible outcome for producers and workers in developing countries.

Image: City Hearts Aberdeen - Working to Tackle Human Trafficking


In this week's blog Kenneth Sadler, Coordinator of St Mary’s Cathedral, Justice and Peace Group in Aberdeen, welcomes a new initiative just started in Aberdeen to help the victims of modern slavery who, as he explains, are not always from far off shores.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has stressed the importance of concern for the poor and vulnerable as part of the practice of our faith, and a prominent part of this concern must be for the victims of human trafficking:

"I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? (Evangelii Gaudium 211)

This concern is emphatically shared by Justice and Peace Scotland and it was fitting that in January the Justice and Peace Group of St Mary’s Cathedral in Aberdeen hosted a presentation from three representatives of City Hearts Aberdeen, a charity which aims to support and restore those affected by human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery.

City Hearts Aberdeen was launched in June 2018 and is the first Scottish project of City Hearts UK, which was founded in 2005. The representatives showed a video giving the survivor’s story of a trafficked and enslaved Nigerian woman, but they also explained that ‘modern slavery’ is an umbrella term encompassing forms of servitude beyond human trafficking and that, perhaps surprisingly, 54% of all modern slavery victims in this country are UK citizens.

Despite its reputation of relative affluence, Aberdeen shares with other parts of Scotland issues associated with the misuse of drugs and alcohol, and it has also suffered economically through the recent oil and gas downturn. Labour exploitation is an increasingly common form of modern slavery in the Granite City.

City Hearts Aberdeen receives referrals from the police and from immigration authorities. It is involved with a drop-in service, restoration programme, and safe house, which will be opening shortly. The initial goal is to provide supportive environments through which women recovering from exploitation and living with life control issues can regain their independence and find a healthy way forward.

This assistance is to be available for as long as it is needed by the affected women.

One of the reasons that human trafficking is such a profoundly disturbing phenomenon is that it is a blatant example of using fellow human beings as objects or means, rather than recognising them as subjects and ends. Relationships with traffickers are abusive and based on deceit as they maintain a malign hold on their victims. The vulnerabilities these victims have are exploited; they are financially manipulated; they have their passports removed; and are kept in a state of dependence and ignorance. There is a strong link between human trafficking and organised crime.

The St Mary’s Cathedral Justice and Peace Group was grateful to Heidi, Laura and Cat of City Hearts Aberdeen for giving an insight into the hidden world of modern slavery. This attack on human dignity rightly scandalises us and, following the lead of Pope Francis, we should all act to make it a thing of the past.

City Hearts Aberdeen website


Image: Welcome or not Welcome – How do we decide and whose lives matter?


In this week's blog, Grace Buckley reflects on two recent tragic news stories and the differing responses they generated.  

Following a recent unfolding news story, I found myself comparing the reporting and responses to it with those relating to a second headline story.  The differences are challenging.
The first story was the tragic case of the young Argentinian football player, Emiliano Sala, whose plane disappeared over the English Channel as he was travelling to join a new club in the UK.  Planes, lifeboats and ships joined in the attempt to find him. When the official searches were subsequently called off, donors raised £280,000 to fund private searches. 
It was good to see the concern and efforts made for this young man by so many, although I did feel some unease at the lack of interest in his pilot.  Had Sala been found alive, there would unquestionably have been rejoicing as he arrived in the UK.
Contrast this with another story unfolding in the English Channel - that of migrants and asylum seekers attempting to reach the UK, most seeking safety from persecution or war, some an escape from poverty.  Some media headlines suggest an invasion. Home Secretary Sajid Javid cut short his family holiday to deal with the crisis, declaring it a “major incident”.  An “enhanced action plan” was agreed with the French government, involving increased joint patrols. The Defence Secretary said the armed forces stood ready to help.
The reality, as charity Care4Calais told MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee, was that just 500 people had tried the Channel crossing in the whole year!
What I found most challenging was that the whole purpose of the actions taken or demanded was not to rescue these people, to get them safely to the UK - but to ensure that they were turned back before they reached UK shores, or to detain them either at sea or if they landed. 
There was no question of welcome. 
There was even doubt that those with valid claims as refugees would be given the chance to state their cases.  The UK government made it clear they would be viewed as “illegal” migrants – guilty until proven innocent.
Unlike the Emiliano Sala case, the migrants had no names; were viewed as numbers not human beings.  But even if some were migrants, as my new t-shirt says, “Migration is not a crime”.  And why should the phrase “economic migrant” make a difference?
Emiliano Sala was an economic migrant, moving to the UK for a better career. But we don’t view highly paid footballers, bankers etc. as economic migrants with the stigma that entails.  Indeed we expect these people to move around the world to further careers.
I am the grand-daughter of economic migrants, two from Ireland, one from England. Only recently have I thought of myself in these terms. A very large proportion of fellow Glaswegians probably fall into the same category.
Who defines an “acceptable” migrant? As Christians, we believe in the innate dignity of every human being as a child of God.  The challenge for us is to act on our beliefs - and not just in the case of some people.

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