Thursday, November 19, 2009
To answer the pending question that many have been throwing my way, "how does it feel to be a college graduate?" This is such an interesting question... and perhaps my answer may not make sense to all. My answer: "Graduating school feels like I am entering a mud wrestling match." Here is why...
DISCLAIMER: I have never competitively mud wrestled, this is my description of how I would imagine it would be like. I am however, a credited source as I have jumped around in a few mud puddles throughout the years.
GRADUATING, by Jen Moran.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I can't even tell you HOW INCREDIBLY EXCITED we are to launch our new site. We have been working on this for some time now (web-design is apparently not my calling). With the help of www.ElementEleven.com design team, we are creating something REALLY special.
Let me give you a taste of what is in store!!
Thursday, October 22, 2009
My presentation was titled: "What is FAIR TRADE? How do we educate and develop just practices in purchasing FAIR TRADE?"
Again, didn't know what to expect... but man, what a great crowd. They asked such wonderful questions and have such big desires to bring Fair Trade into their organizations. One of the biggest challenges most faced is:
"How do we educate on Fair Trade and show our communities that with little changes, we can make a big difference?" and "How can we bring Fair Trade into our organizations without paying more?"
Both are great questions. There is so much greatness in the definition of Fair Trade that often it is hard to explain, all the while making sense to our listener. I found this great video that shows that even little changes in our spending can contribute SO MUCH to alleviating Global Poverty.
THIS IS A FANTASTIC VIDEO... JUST WATCH AND SEE :)
You can make a HUGE difference even by switching a few of your current purchases to Fair Trade items. To learn more, or find Fair Trade offerings near you, check out the following links.
Of course I will list our two organizations first :)
- http://www.solidarityclothing.org/ (Fair Trade school uniforms, business attire)
- http://www.greenolastyle.etsy.com/ (Women's clothing and accessories)
- http://www.fairtradefederation.org/ht/d/Home/pid/175 (Great resource and listing of Fair Trade organizations)
- http://www.chicagofairtrade.org/ (Local resource)
- http://www.milwfairtrade.org/ (another local resource)
Alrighty.... Peace out for now!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Milwaukee Public Market
Fair Trade Bazaar!
Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009
10 am – 2 pm
Milwaukee Public Market
400 N. Water St., 2nd Floor
Shop at 10 local Fair Trade vendor booths, see a fair trade, eco-friendly fashion show at 12:00 and 1:00 and have the chance to be entered in a drawing for prizes every 30 minutes!
Argan D’Or Argan Oil
Fair Trade For All
Four Corners of the World
Minga Fair Trade Imports
Stone Creek Coffee
Solidarity Clothing/GREENOLA Fair Trade, Sustainable Style!!!!
Sven’s European Cafe
Trails to Bridges
Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
I BELIEVE IN BOLIVIA. I BELIEVE IN ME.
Words are influential.
Song is influential.
Art is influential.
Love is influential.
Challenge your self to influence.
Often the questions, "What is my purpose here on earth? Who created me?" are present in our lives. The answers, I have none. I am not here to tell you what to believe, or who do believe in. All I can do is share my journey with you, and encourage you on your own journey. For me...Prayer is not religion, it is ACTION.
"What you see depends on where you stand.
How you jump will tell you where you are going to land." -Bono
My Bolivian Prayer is my cry, my reaching out of my arms to you. Look into my eyes and see the faces of the poor. See my face, a face of courage and hope. Touch my hand, feel the power of Solidarity.
I DON'T EXIST FOR MYSELF, I EXIST FOR THE WORLD.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
- Peter Buck - Program Representative, Equal Exchange Interfaith Program<http://www.equalexchange.coop/interfaith-program>
- Katy Cantrell - Program Advisor, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Fair TradeProgram <http://www.crsfairtrade.org/>
- Sam Carpenter - General Manager, Global Gifts<http://www.globalgiftsindy.com/>
- Carmen Iezzi - Executive Director, Fair Trade Federation<http://www.fairtradefederation.org/>
- John Ryan - State Director, Office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown<http://brown.senate.gov/>
- Chris Solt - Regional Sales Manager, Ten Thousand Villages<http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/>
You can learn more about the Expo and pre-register at:http://www.ohiofairtrade.com/. Online registration will be available on the website during the first week in August. Pre-registration for students is $5 and Expo-Day registration for students is $9.
WE'D LOVE TO SEE YOU THERE!!
Solidarity Clothing will be selling products from our new GREENOLA line: http://www.greenolastyle.com/
Jennifer Moran and the Solidarity Clothing team :)
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Last fall, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Cochabamba, Bolivia for four months. During this amazing adventure, I became enthralled with Bolivia’s vibrant culture, its friendly people, and its complex sociopolitical landscape. While in Bolivia I saw many vivid and often heartbreaking glimpses of how poverty impacts the children, women, and men of this developing nation. Upon my return to the United States, I could not forget (nor did I want to forget) the names and faces of Bolivian children I met living on the streets, the stories of women searching for options to send their girls to school, or the conversations I had with parents discussing daily struggles to feed their children.
After returning to the states, I wanted to participate in sustainable changes in Bolivia so I searched for organizations in the U.S. that work with Bolivian people. Most of the organizations I encountered take a charity-type approach by directly giving money, food, and supplies to Bolivian people. Although this approach to poverty is valid and hugely important, I want to be part of a project that emphasizes participatory development and that recognizes the skills and abilities of Bolivian people by focusing on their assets to increase economic stability. I eagerly searched for such an avenue to stay involved in Bolivia and make a difference in communities I had grown to love.
I literally found the opportunity I was looking for on a crumpled napkin.
I was sitting at a post-study abroad dinner at Northwestern when the woman next to me suddenly handed me a paper napkin on which she had hastily scrawled the name of a local organization that does work in Bolivia: Solidarity Clothing. After this serendipitous introduction to Solidarity Clothing and GREENOLA, I became increasingly intrigued by the concept of fair trade and began to explore its goals and impact.
The more I learn about the mission of fair trade, the more I become convinced of its positive impact in developing nations like Bolivia. I am thrilled to be working with an organization that focuses on lasting, bilateral partnerships between U.S. consumers and Bolivian producers. I think fair trade has so much potential to allow people market access and economic opportunities in dignified and empowering manners.
I feel so fortunate to be working with Solidarity Clothing and GREENOLA. In the process, I am excited to learn more about fair trade, Bolivian producers, and socially conscious consumerism.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Obama Continues Trade Preferences For Ecuador, Not Bolivia
WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Ecuador would continue to enjoy trade preferences, while extending Bolivia's suspension from the program.
In reviewing the countries' eligibility for the two countries' Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, Obama declined to determine either that Bolivia had satisfied the requirements of the act or that Ecuador failed to meet the requirements, according to the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
Thus, the suspension of Bolivia initiated by President George W. Bush last November remains in effect, while Ecuador will be able to continue getting duty- free treatment to most of its exports to the U.S. through the end of the year.
While the decision on Bolivia was expected, U.S. business groups had hoped that Ecuador would also be taken off the program due to what they consider an unfavorable investment climate in the country. Both Bolivian President Evo Morales and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa are allies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a constant critic of U.S. policies in the region.
The Andean trade preferences have been in place since the end of 1991 to help four South American countries, also including Colombia and Peru, combat drug trafficking. The benefits have been renewed every year.
-By Tom Barkley, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9275; email@example.com
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Jen's Comments: I met with Darius Alemzadeh (one of the student leaders behind Sweat Free UWM campaign) of UWM and was blown away with all the efforts of his group. This is another great example of how CHANGE is possible.
Solidarity Clothing joined "Sweat Free UWM" for their celebratory Fashion Show. The event proved to be a success. Many students joined in to celebrate and learn about Fair Trade and Sweat Free practices. AWESOME!! (See the pictures above from the fashion show!! You can see more here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mkensc/)
UWM to Sign Anti-sweatshop policy!!!
By Erica Perez of the Journal Sentinel
Apr. 2, 2009
Anti-sweatshop student groups at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are celebrating the university's decision this week to endorse a program designed to protect the rights of the workers who sew university logo apparel.
Student groups have been pushing the school to endorse the Designated Suppliers Program, which requires university licensees to verify the source of their apparel from factories that pay a living wage and allow workers to unionize, among other requirements.
This week, students got word from university administrators that they would sign on.
An 11 a.m. rally planned for Friday will now be a celebration instead of agitation, said graduate student Dana Schultz, an organizer with Milwaukee Students for a Democratic Society.
"It feels amazing," Schultz said. "A lot of dedicated people have put hours and hours into this. It seems like an easy thing for a university to do, but it's a commitment and it's putting the university's name behind something to ensure clothes are made responsibly."
As part of the effort to get UWM to endorse the program, Milwaukee Students for a Democratic Society and the Milwaukee Graduate Assistant Association staged a protest last fall. In recent weeks, students hung a "sweatshop clothesline" in front of Chancellor Carlos Santiago's office. University apparel such as basketball t-shirts are hung up on the clothesline with facts about sweatshops.
Some 45 colleges and universities across the country have penned policy statements in support of the program, including UW-Madison and Marquette University.
UWM previously said it supported the principles of the Designated Supplier Program but felt "the program may pose legal, logistical, and economic issues as it is currently structured, concerns shared by other institutions and organizations.” The school stopped short of endorsing the program.
Schultz got an e-mail from UWM Vice Chancellor Tom Luljak this week that said the university had agreed to sign on, a move that would make it the 46th university on the list.
UWM appears ready to participate as a member of the Designated Suppliers Program working group, a body of representatives from colleges that support the program and are working to come up with revisions to the plan. Marquette University has a similar commitment.
Schultz said UWM's new commitment won't likely translate into changes in who supplies university apparel. The hope is that UWM's suppliers would all be certified under the Designated Suppliers Program's strict standards.
"If in fact all of our clothes are made from factories that treat workers with respect, then it shouldn't be a problem at all," she said.
JOIN US IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HUMAN EXPLOITATION AND TRAFFICKING!!
Not only does Radio Head have a mystic way with words, this video depicts the realities that some men/women/children face each day. Realities that can and should be addressed. A great site I found that provides great information and resources on how you can join the Fight is: http://www.free2work.org/
Monday, May 25, 2009
Providence student Jamie Doherty helped lead the campaign. She writes,
"Our Sweat Free campaign group has been working for a year and half to get the bookstore to go sweat free by joining the WRC. Last year the focus was on educating the student body by showing a documentary and creating posters around campus. We held a boycott of the bookstore, attained the support of the faculty senate and finally got a meeting with the President just a month ago. He agreed to join the WRC and has begun the process of writing a
code of conduct for the school. Our goal now is to celebrate this victory and inform the student body of what we have achieved."
AWESOME!! Solidarity Clothing is proud to have contributed to Providence College's successful event.
"Our event was very successful. It went better than we even expected. It was a very hot day and we held it on the quad so all the kids were outside anyways and came over to tye dye. We sold out all the tee sweat free tee shirts we ordered, and everyone had a blast tye dying. More people kept coming up after we ran out! We had probably 250 people come by throughout the day. We had a speaker from United Students Against Sweatshops speak for about 20 minutes. I can't remember her name off the top of my head, but she gave a brief overview of sweatshops and the work they do. We had also been working to have clubs and organizations around campus sign pledges to purchase only sweat free tee shirts, (as the college's pledge is only for the bookstore) So far we have successfully gained about ten pledges from different clubs and hope to continue with that next year. At the event we raffled off all the donations we received as well as some gift certificates we purchased and everyone was so grateful and excited. It was a very exciting day. :)We were also concurrently advertising for an event we had a few days later- a woman named Norma touring colleges to talk about her experiences working at a a sweatshop in Honduras. She worked for Jerzees de Honduras, which is a factory owned by Russell Athletic. Russell recently closed Jerzees de Honduras in violation of university codes of conduct in an effort to destroy the union that the workers organized. Norma and others are touring universities to spread awareness of the issues and of Russell's practices. Her speech was incredibly moving and we had a very good turnout for that event as well. Overall it was incredibly successful and we're happy to finally be a sweat free campus.Thank you for your donations and your interest!"
Thank you Jamie and all the other students at Providence College for creating positive change in the world!
Monday, April 27, 2009
Today I made quite the observation, Bolivian dog poo is NOT the same as American dog poo. I woke up this morning at 3AM so that I could have 4 full hours to go over my business plan and financials due this evening for DePaul’s Venture Challenge. Call me crazy… this I know (I didn’t even want to think about the possibility of the Internet not working tonight; the possibility is quite high. You know, the power of positive thinking). Well anyways, after 4 hours and lots of Bolivian chocolate I had to run to the town to change some money and get some kind of exercise to make myself feel better about eating all the chocolate. The walk was great, Cochabamba has the best weather. I was practically skipping, smiling at everyone walking by, “Buen dia!” Nothing could be better in that moment. And then it happened… all of a sudden I couldn’t lift my foot. It was stuck to the side walk. I looked down. I had stepped in dog poo (!). This wasn’t just any dog poo, it was Bolivian dog poo. This stuff is more potent that gum. You are probably thinking exactly what I thought at first, “No, that couldn’t have been dog poo. You would never stick to the side walk like that.” I can assure you it was. Being the curious person I am, I immediately began a search for some more poo to confirm my observation. Sure thing, Bolivian dogs must be eating the craziest things. Not only does their “poo” look quite interesting…I believe this could be a new raw material source and market opportunity, Bolivian dog poo glue.
DAY 5: La Cancha, keep your eyes open and your purse close.
Today is La Cancha day with my college’s non-english speaking wife and then lunch with two fantastic people and board members of Puente de Solidaridad (Solidarity Clothing’s partnering Bolivian non-profit). La Cancha, means “The Market” in spanish. It should mean “Small, over populated town.” This market is the craziest, fast paced, noisiest place I have ever been. Monica (the wife of my colleague) came to pick me up in (really) small car. The first thing I thought when I saw it was, “Oh my goodness… How the heck will I fit in there (I am 5’11”)?” Some how I managed to get myself in the car. My head was literally touching the ceiling. Immediately we connected, Monica is such a wonderful woman (and speaks incredibly clear spanish). She drove us right into the middle of the market. HA! (laughing outloud as the a visual appears in my head) One of the main streets was closed for road construction and there was this big yellow ribbon blocking the street. “Jennifer, get out and hold the ribbon up. We are going in, that’s the street we need,” she told me. Um, ok. I got out and held the ribbon up as she quickly drove under. I can’t even tell you how many people were yelling at me. I didn’t even try to understand what they were saying. I just got back into the car as quickly as I could. “Perfecto!” she replied as if she couldn’t hear any of the curses. We drove a little way and parked (we were the only car on the blocked off street, such Royalty). Monica looked at me and said, “Keep your eyes open and your purse close.” Then she just started walking, never looking back. For as little as she was, man did she walk fast. We walked past meat stands, aisles of candy, bread, shoes, sunglasses, fabrics, you name it, it was there. Finally, as if it appeared out of nowhere we approached this hidden aisle of great Bolivian artifacts. Man where they excited to see me. “Pregunta me! Pregunta me! (ask me a question)” Flew at me from all angles. Though I felt completely overwhelmed, I found some beautiful jewelry, placemats, and small artifacts.
After la Cancha I had a wonderful lunch with Carlos and Marie Eugenia (Puente de Solidaridad board members). These are two of the nicest, most admirable people I have ever met. They welcomed me into their home and greeted me with the fanciest lunch I had ever seen. I tried so hard to speak in spanish but my head was so tired from my time with Monica. All my sentences came out making absolutely no sense. They were so patient with me. I have learned that Bolivianos are such loving, patient people. These two are no exception. Marie Eugenia made this wonderful avocado salad that I just couldn’t get enough of. They were so pleased with how much of it I ate that they brought out two more avocados just to satisfy my love. These things were the size of my head! I have NEVER seen avocados this big. Just another reason to love this country, Bolivia. After a wonderful lunch I was ready to return to my hotel, submit my business plan (have it FINALLY out of my mind), and get my self ready to fly to Santa Cruz to meet back up with the doctors. I learned earlier in the week that I would be the “official Operating Room photographer” during tomorrow’s open heart surgeries (!!). Whose said that with 9 years of schooling I could have been a doctor? This artist, world traveler, business student, hippie, entrepreneur, etc., will be in the operating room! My mother should be so proud.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
First I need to apologize to all of you for not getting this post up Wednesday (I especially need to apologize to my mother who has been religiously checking my blog to ensure I am ok… Mother, lo siento), I am a few days behind on my posts. The internet connection I was using has not been the best lately. Wednesday proved to be quite the busy day. This was the day I was waiting for, Ulala day. Not only is it a fantastic word to say (Ulala is the word for the cactus flower here in Bolivia. It is pronounced: Ooh-la-la), it is a wonderful cooperative to visit. I also had to work on my business plan… Back in the US, I am a finalist in DePaul University’s Venture Challenge with Solidarity Clothing’s other line, www.GREENOLAstyle.com. My final plan was due the next day, Thurday. I always turn in things at the last minute. Not because I procrastinate, but because I have to re-read it a million times.
All the doctors left to Santa Cruz Tuesday night leaving me to fend for myself. I love this feeling… I THRIVE in this feeling. How better to challenge your mind, courage and strength than to submerge yourself in an uncomfortable situation (the uncomfortableness being my very limited spanish vocabulary)? My spanish is improving each day and I am learning that a good giggle after a completely ridiculous sentence works quite well. Bolivianos are so patient and don’t mind my favorite word, “despacio (slowly).” I do have to say, I am surprising myself.
DAY 4: Ulala Cooperative.
This morning Jose (my colleague) came to the hotel to pick me up. The hotel staff wouldn’t let me leave until I ate some breakfast (of course I would never tell them the breakfast always gives me a stomach ache). They are so wonderful and just love hearing me attempt spanish. I have worked with Jose for a little more than a year but never really had a good conversation with him due to the language barrier. I have learned so much about him in this last week through our broken spanish/broken english conversations. This is such a wonderful thing. I feel so much closer to him, hearing his goals, and hopes for Solidarity Clothing. I know that together we will create such a positive change in the world. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with every thing I am doing; running two companies while taking five classes at DePaul University. Never again will I complain when I this feeling approaches and I have to go to my three hour spanish class every Friday. It has certainly paid off.
Ulala Cooperative is one of my favorites. These women are true entrepreneurs who show so much pride in their work. Every time I visit they are quick to show me their new styles, asking how I think they can improve and increase their market. In my previous visits I have had a translator. This for some reason made the visits feel very professional and business like. This time, it was me and my spanish. WOW! This visit was truly amazing, AMAZING. I now am able to communicate with them (and they could actually understand me). Because of this, so much energy filled their bodies. Women who I thought were shy wouldn’t stop talking. At one point we were all huddled around the table, shoulder to shoulder, laughing and all talking at once. I had a permanent smile on my face. They were so pleased that I learned spanish and could understand what they were saying. Nobody could ask me enough questions. They wanted to learn all about the US, my family, and the style women wear. I had them do a product sample for Lola-ola (my love and golden retriever) with out them really know what it was (only because I really couldn’t explain it at the time of the request). The sample turned out fantastic and when I explained what exactly it will be used for, they couldn’t believe it. “Who would buy a product for their dog? That is crazy,” they said. Ha! As you all know, we Americans are crazy when it comes to our dogs. I showed them a picture of Lola as I explained the American dog market… pet hotels, manicures, grooming, massage, pet psychology, etc. Many hands were brought to their mouths in shock. As I was laughing at the reactions I noticed one of the older women in off to the side with what looked to me as a look of complete disgust. Oh, my laughing stopped. Maybe I offended her with my crazy American spending habits… All of a sudden she stood up and said, “I love dogs! This is very interesting. Tell me how we can get into this market. Show me your dogs. What sizes do I need to make? Let’s make sweaters. What colors?” We then went on to talk about dogs for a good hour. HA! Even when I was getting ready to leave she pulled me aside and said, “Please tell me the size of your dogs. This is a great thing.”
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I had the hardest time waking up this morning. I had such vivid dreams last night as I always do when I am here in Bolivia. In my dreams I had such big hands and my face wasn’t visible. This may sound strange… but I know EXACTLY what it meant. My hands are so much more powerful than my face… you can only do so much with a beautiful face; with beautiful hands, you can change the world.
I don’t consider myself a “religious person.” I don’t go to church and I have a hard time following one religion’s views. I follow my heart, earth’s energies, my passions, and intuition. I know I have a purpose and I want to make a difference. Each time I come to Bolivia, I am reassured of my life’s path and that I am being guided (by whom/what… I can’t say for sure).
Today we lost one of the patients in the operating room (I am traveling with http://www.solidaritybridge.org/, my partnering non-profit). I have never felt so overwhelmed with sadness together with such a strong presence of faith in my life. This patient was a mother of seven, less than 50 years old. She was on her path to death before we saw her; we hoped we could give her more time on this path so she could continue to be with her children. I have never been so close to death before. After she passed, I could feel her energy circulating around the room drawing all the doctors (Bolivian and American), her family, and our staff together as one force moving forward.
DAY 2: Tata Esteban Cooperative
Before heading to the hospital to be with the patients and help out the doctors I visited our cooperative, Tata Esteban. Also know as Sipaskuna (pronounced SE-CA-ME-SPA), the Quechua word meaning “young women,” Tata Esteban is located in Tiraque a small mountain town of 2,000 in the heart of Bolivia. The young women, owners of Tata Esteban, are alumni of a training center affiliated with the local church. I love visiting this small town and talking with these young, playful girls working at this cooperative. Each time I visit I see another young girl (between the ages of 14-25) in the cooperative with a newborn baby strapped to her back as she works. It is another classic case of a young girl impregnated by just as young of a boy who is unable to man up to the responsibility of a baby; she is then is left to take care of the baby by herself. Without the proper sex education and preventive measures available, this is an unfortunate reality for Bolivian girls.
As we started to talk, again the biggest concern was work. They need more work. The American company they produce many goods for and we help coordinate, no longer needs their services. There has been many quality issues with their work and they haven’t been able to source the correct fabric. They asked for my help in getting one more chance. They need this work to support their cooperative. Together we talked about new styles, quality, and how we are going to approach this company to reassure their cooperative is capable of the company’s requests. We came up with a plan and have some great new samples coming back with me to give to the American company. Solidarity Clothing is also starting a new line, GREENOLA (http://www.greenolastyle.com/) and the girls and I had some great conversation around new products that allowed them to utilize their creativity and innovation. They are so funny… they were really excited to show me a new “dress” they created. This was not much of a dress, it was quite sexy. I tried to hold back my look of shock when they asked if I would wear it (Basically it was two panels that barely covered the chest area that flowed into a incredibly short skirt). As politely as I could in Spanish I told them it was too cold in Chicago for such a dress.
Monday, April 20, 2009
So, remember when I mentioned I realized I forgot something? I am very disappointed to say I forgot my camera cord… you will not be able to view my photos until my return. UGH! Oh, the suspense…
Last night I arrived to my hotel in Santa Cruz at 11PM. Of course I was not able to go right to sleep; I had to figure out the internet so that I could post my journal entry. I suppose I didn’t HAVE to… but I did tell my mother the only way she would know I was safe was to read my blog (this was to force technology on her, make her actually use her Facebook account, and to raise the number of viewers to my blog. Sneaky, I know). With a 6:30AM flight to Cochabamba today, the morning came WAY too early. I had a total of three hours of sleep. As soon as the plane began to roll, so did my eyes. I was out like a baby and didn’t wake up until we aggressively touched town in Cochabamba. I love this city, but geez, every time I arrive at this airport there is a new challenge to face. We were unable to bring the medical supplies through security (!). We were told we had to leave the supplies (that were needed today for surgeries) at the airport until we return with a “doctor’s note.” It didn’t matter that we had one of the top heart doctors in the US with us along with all his credentials. I mean, come on! Would this distinguished doctor come to Bolivia along with HEART VALVES for any other reason than to perform surgeries? Apparently they didn’t trust us (or someone needed to feel important). Long story short, after we arrived at our hotel we were able to send someone back with a note and the boxes were recovered. This was great news, since we had four Bolivianos waiting at the hospital for us today to begin surgery.
DAY 2: Visiting K’anchy cooperative.
When our small group arrived to our hotel in Cochabamba we were greeted by Puente de Solidaridad staff’s (my Bolivian partnering non-profit and Solidarity Bridge’s Bolivian staff) hugs and kisses. Immediately I was told they would not be speaking English to me (group laugh), and they wondered why my hair was no longer blond, and why I looked like I wasn’t eating as much. In Bolivia blond hair is a rarity and a little more “meat” on your bones implies you are living a good life. I assured them I am living the life of my dreams and that I am trying to be healthier so I have better luck with a husband (every time I visit they wonder why at 26 years old I am not married. In Bolivia this age is really old. They worry that I will soon be too old for a husband). Of course I don’t share the thought that immediately races through my head each time this question is asked “Are you kidding! I am ONLY 26 years old!”
We have a great breakfast and Jose (my college who coordinates all Solidarity Clothing’s orders) and I separate from the medical group and head to K’anchy cooperative. Just a quick background… K’anchy is the cooperative that produces the polo shirts, t-shirts and canvas shopping bags for Solidarity Clothing. I am especially excited to visit and share all the recent excitement surrounding our last order.
K’anchy: On the ride to the cooperative Jose and I discuss the many challenges we have been dealing with importing (Jose in broken English, Jen in broken Spanish). Each time there seems to be something new. After many confused looks and interesting sentence structures we are able to create a plan for future orders. We arrive at a half finished building which is now the home of K’anchy. This is really hard for me to see. In the last year they were forced to move out of their previous building because the owner decided to no longer rent the space. I walk up the steps to the fourth floor of the building and I am greeted by the now 6 member cooperative (we used to have close to 12 members). The US isn’t the only country experiencing the hardships, lack of work, and price increases due to the current economic crisis. Bolivia has been hit just as hard. Solidarity Clothing is not the only organization providing work for this cooperative. Thankfully we have been able to keep our orders somewhat consistent. Unfortunately, the work load from other organizations has been lessened a great deal due to the economy.
After our hugs, kisses, and hellos we all sit down to talk. This is where it got really emotional for me… Times are rough, and they are not happy with their current building. “How am I going to provide them work?” they asked. They amaze me with their commitment to each other and their craft. I want so bad to tell them it’s ok, we have more work coming, but I can’t. There is so much uncertainty. Sometimes I feel like so much pressure is on my shoulders. In a way, I am the one controlling their future. The harder I work in the US, the more work they are able to receive and the easier they are able to rise out of poverty. This is a lot of pressure… but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The way I look at it is that these people are my family. Just like any family, we need to work together to survive, grow, and support each other. Never would I give up on them, and never would they give up on me. We talked about how we are going to get future orders and I shared with them the new marketing materials I recently distributed. It was great to see hope start to fill their eyes as they viewed the FANTASTIC photos of their shirts that were donated by a photographer friend of mine. “WOW!” They said. “How could we not get more orders with these photos?” We also talked about the recent Coleman Center order (http://www.cec.depaul.edu/) and all the great feedback I received. I realized that even though I may not be able to say everything I want to say, just me being here in Bolivia taking the time to visit with them gives them hope and confidence that together we will make Solidarity Clothing work. I need their presence, energies and reassurance just as much as they need mine.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
My Journey to Bolivia Begins:
Though this is my third trip to Bolivia, my excitement, anticipation and feelings of complete happiness are not lessened. In fact, as I was driving to the airport at 5AM this morning (!) my feelings were heightened. Perhaps these feelings stemmed from a quick thought of escaping the craziness of my life, the ridiculously early hour, the sleep deprived state I have been living in for the last year, or the venti coffee I splurged on with hopes of making to the airport in once piece… No way man, it was the sudden realization that I will be returning to the country that allows me to share whole self and that has put so much passion, hope, beauty, and strength into my life.
I invite you all to share this journey with me as I travel around the Bolivian cities of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba meeting with men and women entrepreneurs (just like me). Unlike me, they are not given all the opportunities that America has to offer. These men and women are living in dire poverty, fighting for their lives, homes, and their children’s futures. Follow me each day as I share stories, adventures, and pictures (if I can figure out how to upload them) of my journey.
DAY 1: I swear I didn’t pee my pants.
Today started at the early hour of 4:30AM. Last night I had the hardest time falling asleep as the excitement of my trip overwhelmed my thoughts (and the worries of forgetting something important. Just as I type this sentence I am realizing I did forget something. DOAH!). I had my best friend over to help calm my mind and facilitate the packing process. I must not be the best company when I pack, he fell asleep the moment he sat on my bed. Ha!
After 4 hours of sleep, I practically jumped out of bed at the sound of my alarm, ready for my travels. The plan was for me to drive to my brother’s house in Chicago, leave my car with him for the week (minus all the dog hair, his number one request) and have him drive me to the airport. We arrived (VERY) quickly to the airport where I met up with the three heart doctors I am traveling with from my partnering non-profit, Solidarity Bridge (http://www.solidaritybridge.org/). These doctors are truly amazing. They are all donating their time and expertise to perform as many heart surgeries and check-ups FREE OF CHARGE to the poor of Bolivia in this next week. They not only have magical, powerful hands, they also have magical, powerful hearts. Each one of us brought two full suitcases of medical supplies with us (AWESOME).
ON THE PLANE: As mentioned before, I woke up way too early for proper brain functioning… so of course the first thing I did when I sat down on the plane was to prepare myself for sleep. Sounds great, right? Oh, it was… let me tell you. I was so tired that after I finished taking a drink of water prior to my comatose I failed to screw the cap on my water bottle tightly on before placing the bottle next to me. After about a good hour nap I woke to find myself in a complete puddle, pants completely soaked. Immediately I thought I had peed my pants in my sleep. But why would I still have to go to the bathroom so bad? As I sat there thinking about what exactly went down, I found the culprit, my water bottle. Sigh of relief… but wait, I still had to go to the bathroom. Do I get up and walk to the bathroom looking like I just peed my pants? Or do I hold it and wait for my pants to dry a bit, saving myself the humiliation? I had to get out of my head and ask myself, “WWJD, you know... What would Jen (the confident one) do?” She would stand up, and walk tall. Besides, all the cool kids pee their pants, right? And that's just what I did... (not the peeing pants part).
Saturday, April 18, 2009
At the close of the global contest in June a lucky winner from each of the seventeen participating countries selling Ben & Jerry’s will be chosen to win a trip to the company’s Fair Trade cocoa cooperative in the Dominican Republic. On the trip, the grand prize winner and the winning flavor will be announced, and then appear on shelves as pints and in Scoop Shops in March 2010. http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20090414006044&newsLang=en
Saturday, April 11, 2009
written by Jen Moran
"Fair Trade leverages the power of people working together across the supply chain (coopamerica.org)." Every person involved in a Fair Trade transaction helps to empower producers while ensuring their health and well-being. Fair Trade transactions also invest in communities and our environment.
Often we are unaware of the effects our purchasing desicions have on people, and the planet. By subsituting/adding more Fair Trade products into our current budget, we take power away from big corporations who seek the lowest possible cost at the expense of workers and our environment. Fair Trade products allow consumers to support producers with a living wage while building stronger communities and promoting a healthier planet.
Fair Trade is not the same as "Free Trade."
- A system that favors big businesses.
- Wages fluctuate as businesses search for the cheapest labor and highest profits.
- Free Trade agreements allow businesses to avoid internationally recognized environmental standards.
- A system that favors small farmers and cooperatives.
- Producers are guaranteed a floor price that is a living wage, building stability for workers.
- Fair Trade insists on adherence to international environmental standards, often directing fair trade premiums to environmental education.
LOOK FOR LABELS!
In the US, Fair Trade Certified products have the label of the TransFair USA and craft businesses operate under the label of the Fair Trade Federation.
- Fresh Fruit
- Sports Balls
- Fair Trade Crafts
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Global economic crisis. Financial collapse. The current climate. Whatever term you want to use to describe our present state of affairs, I've heard it in the halls and meeting rooms at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship . Funding is down, outlooks are uncertain, and people are worried. Except, perhaps, for the fair-trade folks. Demand for sustainably made, socially responsible products seems to be growing even as the global economy staggers.
A few weeks before the forum, candymaker Cadbury announced that, by this summer, all of its flagship Dairy Milk bars in Britain and Ireland will be made exclusively from fair-trade cocoa grown by Ghanaian farmers. By the end of the year, every cup of coffee that Starbucks sells in the U.K. will be brewed with fair-trade beans, and in 2008, the company doubled the amount of fair-trade coffee it imported into the U.S. Wal-Mart is quadrupling its purchases of fair-trade bananas this year, and eliminating non-FT bananas from hundreds of its stores. Transfair USA is planning to certify up to a dozen new products in 2009, including avocados and olive oil, and will begin a pilot project for cotton apparel--its first beyond food. So is fair trade recession-proof?
Prices for fair-trade products may be higher, but one Harvard study  has showed that consumers expect them to be: Sales actually increased when the price went up. "Not only is this consumer segment--which is growing, trend-setting--willing to pay a little more for products that speak to those values, but they expect to pay more," Transfair USA CEO Paul Rice said in a session at the forum. It's as if the higher price signals that the certification isn't just a marketing gimmick but guarantees the veracity of the claim.
Rice thinks that companies investing now are being particularly forward-looking. "Companies who are announcing big increases in FT product lines are really trying to position themselves for when we come out of the recession," he says. "They're positioning themselves now, at this unlikely moment, to establish credibility." He believes there's good reason to do so, citing studies that show up to 30% of U.S. adult consumers--some 60 million people--regularly shop for products "that are consistent with their values."
Earlier in the week, Oxford development economist Jim Cust  told me "there's arguably no altruistic act in the world. Economists look at the underlying utility you derive from doing something." That's as true of the consumer, and especially the corporation, as it is of the social entrepreneur. Fair trade is certainly seen by corporations as a differentiator for marketing purposes. "We've done something that's far beyond what any coffee company in the U.K. has ever done before," Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said last fall. "This long-term commitment … will give our customers the assurance that the coffee they're buying in Starbucks in terms of espresso-based beverages is at a price that will allow sustainability for those people who need it most."
The conventional wisdom here at the forum seems to be that the ranks of the ethical shopper are growing. The question is whether this is just what one of my acquaintances calls "an ethical corsage" (thanks, Dan McQuillan !) thanks to clever marketing and corporate strategy, or whether the growth in fair trade really presages some kind of permanent shift in the way we consume.
Maybe fair trade seems recession-proof because the people who tend to buy those products are less vulnerable to the rises and falls of the broader economy. The one problem with the Harvard study that Paul Rice cited was that it was done at ABC Carpet & Home, an upscale Manhattan home-furnishings store/yuppie magnet frequented by folks who are a little more insulated from recession than your average consumer. They're not living paycheck to paycheck. People using food stamps aren't buying fair-trade coffee. Let's say there comes a time when smarter, fairer shopping isn't just a yuppie lifestyle choice--not the only option, but the generally preferred one. That actually could mean that fair trade becomes less recession-proof, not more.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
2: Athletic Shoes: One World Running sends good condition shoes to those in need in Africa, Latin America, and Haiti. www.OneWorldRunning.com
3: Batteries: www.batteryrecycling.com
4:Clothes: You can donate good condition clothes to your local Goodwill. Good condition woman's business clothing can be donated to Dress for Success, a nonprofit that gives them to low-income women as they search for jobs. www.DressforSuccess.org. Another option, offer them to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them for bedding.
5: Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL): IKEA recycles them www.Ikea.com. You can also order a Sylvania Recycle Pack www.sylvania.com/recycle/recyclepak.
6: Computers and Electronics: Go to www.ban.org/pledge/locations.html
7: Foam packing peanuts: Your local pack and ship store will likely accept these for resuse. Or call the the Plastic Loose Fill Producers council to find a drop-off site 800.828.2214. For Foam Blocks contact Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers 410.451.8340, www.epspackaging.org/info.html
8: Ink/Toner cartridges: www.recycleplace.com
9: Oil: Find used motor oil hotlines for each state: www.recycleoil.org
10: Phones: Collective good will refurbish your phone and sell it to someone in a developing country www.Collectivegood.com. Call to Protect reprograms cell phones to dial 911 and gives them to domestic violence victims: www.donateaphone.com
Monday, January 26, 2009
written by Jim Schultz, Democracy Center
Bolivia is ten days away from a national vote that by all measures ought to be a historic watershed – to approve or not a sweeping new national constitution.Yet the streets are quiet. Neither here in urban Cochabamba where I work nor in rural Tiquipaya where I live, have I seen anyone handing out leaflets. There are no auto caravans roaming the streets with loudspeakers. There are no armies of campaigners wearing Si! or No! t-shirts. I've seen no announcements for big rallies in the stadium. All of the usual trappings of popular Bolivian election campaigning seem to be hiding in hibernation somewhere, as if everyone just sort of forgot.How would Jesus Vote?The airwaves however are a different story. My television watching friends (since television is the devil I don't own one) tell me it is wall-to-wall propaganda by both sides, most of it so over the top that facts aren't even a light consideration.One ad, seeking a No vote, touts a bloody fetus and declares that the new constitution would legalize abortion. It doesn't, nor does it come close to doing so. Another ad shows two men kissing, beckons voters to "not be a part of the sin" and urges a No vote. The new constitution includes vague language about discriminatation based on sexual orientation. The best ad of the bunch features side-by-side images of President Evo Morales, the constitution's main promoter, with Jesus Christ (who to my knowledge has remained neutral so far). Declaring that the new constitution eliminates religious rights (another, 'it doesn't') the ad asks voters, "Whose side are you on?"Jesus, who has not run for public office in Bolivia, is a popular figure here.Morales and his MAS party aren't staying out of the exaggeration Olympics in all this either. Their ads proudly proclaim that the new constitution would put the nation's natural resources into the hands of the people. But the actual articles, especially after the huge compromises made in October, leave things a good deal mushier than that.A Long Way from the Original VisionThe Bolivian demand for a new constitution did not begin this month or with the election of Evo Morales in 2005. It has been a demand for decades from the nation's long-marginalized indigenous majority, who see in the current constitution the vestiges of legally-enforced privilege and of old colonialism.Their vision of how a new constitution would come about is almost tragically different than what has transpired. Their dream was of a process outside of politics, a Constituent Assembly of citizens from their communities that would mirror the communitarian decision-making process of their pueblos. In the end they got their constituent assembly, though one so dominated by political parties that you had to be a member of one to be a delegate. Then even that went out the door as political parties met behind closed doors in Cochabamba and adopted 100 amendments, as part of a desperate reach for a compromise that would pave the way for the January 25th vote and steer the nation past the bloody conflicts that broke out over the constitution and other issues in September.As many critics have noted: If this was government of the people, by the people and for the people, it was a really small number of people who made the decisions.What would the New Constitution Really Mean?With 411 separate articles, stretching across a range of issues as wide as the imagination, the number of people who genuinely understand the real implications can probably be counted on two hands. I am not among them, nor have I ever had any desire to be. Nevertheless, if one listens to the various proponents and critics, and talks to any of the genuine experts, the big issues seem to come to this:Political ReformsYou want my opinion? I think it really all came down to this, issues of how the political playing field would be laid out that will affect the fortunes of politicians and their constituencies for decades to come.Evo wanted unlimited opportunities for reelection, or at least two (the current constitution forbids back-to-back terms for President). The opposition wanted none. They compromised on one reelection term, in a vote that would take place next December.MAS wanted to abolish the Senate, the opposition strong hold, and have a unicameral Congress. The opposition likes the status quo. They compromised on increasing the Senate by nine seats and establishing, for the lower house, that a certain undetermined number of districts will be reserved for indigenous community representatives, elected in a manner to be chosen by those communities according custom.Land ReformThis was going to be the 'big enchilada' of constitutional reform, or one of them. The large land tracks of the wealthy were going to be divided up and handed out to campesinos who had none. If Morales and MAS had redistribution of wealth on their minds when elected, this was going to be where it really happened, which is, of course, why so many wealthy landowners in places like Santa Cruz went so utterly bananas.How does it look now? Under the compromise amendments approved in October, if you have huge tracts of land and you are using them in some form of production (which could be just chasing one small herd of cattle around to its various corners), you are in the clear. Productive land got 'grandfathered' in, meaning it is exempt from any changes. If some of that big land is just sitting around drying out, it will be in the government's sights, and the policy on compensation is as vague as Cochabamba street directions.Anybody who buys land in the future will be limited by the new constitution, if it is approved. Whether the cap is 5,000 hectares of 10,000 hectares will be decided by a parallel vote on the 25th.Gas and OilBack in the people's hands? Well, not quite. The Morales approach to gas and oil has never been confiscatory, despite silly claims otherwise. It has been 'renegotiation,' not 'nationalization' and the new constitution does little to alter that course. The pre-compromise version said that the government could contract with private oil and gas companies to perform certain services. The language won by Morales adversaries amended that to let oil firms join in 'risk sharing' arrangements with the government. That is also called co-ownership and is a far cry from, "It was your gas, now it's our gas, thanks."National Health Care ServicesCalled 'Social Security" here, this is an issue which has drawn criticism from the left (which is ample). The pre-compromise version of the new constitution declared that these services would be free to all. The new version only guarantees "access". Any good policy student worth her salt knows the difference here. Guaranteed access means you can have it if you pay, and how much is unclear.Will it Make a Difference?There are certainly, amidst 411 articles, many other issues – from education to indigenous and regional autonomy – and many points of view on them (though not from Jesus, to my knowledge). There are also other criticisms. I spoke about the new constitution recently with former President Eduardo Rodriguez, as legitimate a constitutional scholar as the nation has (he was also formerly President of the Supreme Court). He pointed out some simple problems of consistency. In one article the new draft guarantees the right to declare oneself a conscientious objector and in another declares military service to be obligatory. How conflicts like that one will get worked out is anyone's guess.Amidst all the unknowns and the vagaries of the constitution being put before the people in ten days, one thing is quite crystal clear. For the vast majority of the people the vote on January 25th will not be about the specifics contained in 411 articles but how they identify with the process of 'change' represented by Morales.It will be an emotional vote. If it passes, as expected, some opponents will weep that the end of the world is at hand. Perhaps the U.S. Embassy will see a spike in applications for visas, as it did after Morales' 2005 election. Supporters of the new constitution will similarly weep with joy, and will proclaim the vote as a clear mandate for a break with the past and a move forward to a Morales-dominated political future.But the fact is that a new constitution will likely change little here. It will not make the buses less crowded. It will not create better paying markets for the corn crops growing in my neighbors' fields. It will not improve the quality of the teaching or the learning at the public schools set to start up again next month. It will not give people yearning for opportunity much new chance of employment.These things will depend on what they have always depended. Will Bolivia's economy take a huge hit as the global economy festers? Will Bolivia have the public resources to meet the desperate needs for investment in education, health, and infrastructure? Will the government, at every level, break through the poly-partisan habits of public corruption and inefficiency that siphon off those resources before they do the people any good?Why haven't I dedicated hours developing detailed analyses of the 411 articles (other than my natural laziness and that weeklong bout with 90,000 hiccups)? Because after 11 years in Bolivia (and seven governments) I know enough to know that what counts is people's day-to-day lives and I know the difference between what effects them and what doesn't.On January 25th Bolivians will go to the polls with great hope and great emotions. But a lot of them will be a lot more concerned that the rains keep falling and that someone will buy their corn at a good price.
Bolivia constitution is set to pass
Taken from the LA Times. By Chris Kraul January 26, 2009
Reporting from La Paz, Bolivia -- Voters appeared to have handed Bolivian President Evo Morales a resounding victory Sunday, with exit polls showing they had approved a new constitution that will advance indigenous rights, strengthen state control over natural resources and permit him to seek another term. Morales addressed a cheering crowd in the plaza before the presidential palace here Sunday night to claim victory and declare that "Bolivia has been re-founded" and that "neoliberalism has been defeated."
Alvaro Garcia Linera and Evo Morales
New Bolivia charter
According to exit polls by two television stations and a political consulting firm, at least 56% of voters approved the 411-article constitution.The final count of votes is not expected for several days.Approval of the constitution, which caps a two-year campaign by Morales, will give expanded discretionary powers to the president, such as the ability to dissolve Congress. He will also be eligible to run for a second five-year term late next year. The earlier constitution did not allow consecutive terms.
Observers expect him to dissolve Congress and call for new elections ahead of scheduled December 2009 balloting.As expected, voters in the western highland states such as La Paz with large indigenous populations overwhelmingly approved the new charter, according to the preliminary results, while voters in the four eastern states that passed autonomy measures last year were resoundingly opposed.For many voters interviewed Sunday in the city of La Paz, the nation's capital, the most salient features of the new charter are the strengthened rights for Bolivia's three dozen ethnic groups, which make up about a third of Bolivia's 9.2 million population. The word "indigenous" appears 130 times in the new constitution.According to clauses in the new document, those groups will now be able to eschew the traditional court system and resort to their own "community justice," claim some nationalized lands as their own and receive a greater share of royalties on minerals and energy developed on or beneath those lands. Interviews with residents of El Alto, a sprawling, mostly indigenous and mixed-race suburb of the capital, reflected high hopes that native communities will now have the stake in national life that many believe has long been denied them. Preliminary counts showed 82% of residents there approved the measure. "This is a great day because we never counted before and now we will," said law student Jenny Marca as she stood in the compound of Abel Iturralde School with her mother, who was dressed in traditional derby hat, shawl and hooped skirt.Civil engineer Luciana Vargas, also of El Alto, said the previous constitution had to be changed because it favored the rich "just like all our previous presidents favored them." By checking boxes on their ballots, voters also were deciding on a cap of either 12,000 or 24,000 acres as the maximum landholdings per owner. Landowners can be stripped of property that is not "socially or economically useful." But existing landowners with more than the maximum would be grandfathered in.Clothing manufacturer Ricardo Ucharico predicted that many people would move from El Alto to occupy nationalized lands because "the population here is growing and there is no room for them." Political analyst and professor Ximena Costa said the new constitution is a step forward for Bolivia's indigenous peoples in that it gives them and their rights legal definition.But the rights, especially those regarding territory, are uncertain and contradictory and could lead to many conflicts among the communities that may try to exert control, Costa said.The divisions among voters on Morales and the constitution were apparent in central La Paz on Sunday morning. Some opposed the new charter because of the added power it conferred on the president, a socialist who is an ideological ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez."He wants to convert us into another Venezuela," dental technician Gabriel Paredes said. "Our children deserve a better future, not a socialism copied after Cuba's or authoritarianism like that of Chavez," retired railway worker Marcial Miranda said. Special correspondent Oscar Ordonez contributed to this report.
Does this mean that the Peace Corp will continue to be banished from this country of need until 2014? Evo may say he stands for the rights of the indigenous people, but how does banishing an organization that provides much need help/aide to the majority of Bolivians living in extreme poverty (mostly the indigenous population) support this claim?
Bolivians Vote for Constitutional Rights for Indigenous Peoples
Taken from the New York Times.
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivian voters embraced a new constitution Sunday that promises more power for the long-suffering indigenous majority and grants leftist President Evo Morales a shot at remaining in office through 2014.
The charter passed easily in a country where many can still recall when Indians were forbidden to vote. But its sometimes vague wording and resistance from Bolivia’s mestizo and European-descended minority foreshadows more political turmoil in an Andean nation polarized by race and class.
Morales, Bolivia’s first Indian president, says the charter will ”decolonize” South America’s poorest country by recovering indigenous values lost under centuries of oppression dating back to the Spanish conquest.
Bolivia’s Aymara, Quechua, Guarani and dozens of other indigenous groups only won the right to vote in 1952, when a revolution broke up the large haciendas on which they had lived as peons for generations.
”The poorest people are the majority. The people with money are only a tiny few. That’s what you have to consider,” said Eloy Huanca outside a polling place in El Alto, a sprawling satellite city of La Paz. ”They ran things before, and now it’s our turn.”
But opposition leaders warn the constitution does not reflect Bolivia’s growing urban population, which mixes both Indian blood and tradition with a new Western identity, and could leave non-Indians out of the picture.
”People will go to vote for the possibility of dreaming for a better country — but a country for all of us,” said Ruben Costas, opposition governor of the eastern state of Santa Cruz. ”We should all be part of this change.”
The proposed constitution was backed by 56.8 percent of voters and opposed by 43.2 percent, with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, according to a quick count by a private polling company. The result was similar to two exit polls by private TV stations that showed 60 percent of voters backing the charter.
Sunday’s vote went peacefully, a relief for a nation where political tensions have recently turned deadly. In 2007, three college students were killed in anti-government riots, and 13 mostly indigenous Morales supporters died in September when rioters seized government buildings to block a vote on the proposed constitution.
The proposed document would create a new Congress with seats reserved for Bolivia’s smaller indigenous groups and eliminates any mention of The Roman Catholic Church, instead recognizing and honoring the Andean earth deity Pachamama.
The charter calls for a general election in December in which Morales could run for a second, consecutive five-year term. The current constitution permits two terms, but not consecutively.
At the heart of the proposed constitution is a provision granting autonomy for 36 indigenous ”nations” and several opposition-controlled eastern states. But both are given a vaguely defined ”equal rank” that fails to resolve their rival claims over open land in Bolivia’s fertile eastern lowlands, whose large agribusiness interests and valuable gas reserves drive much of the country’s economy.
With an eye to redistributing territory in the region, the constitution also limits future land holdings to either 12,000 or 24,000 acres (5,000 or 10,000 hectares), depending which voters choose. Current landholders are exempt from the cap — a nod to the east’s powerful cattle and soy industries, which fiercely oppose the proposal.
Morales, an Aymara Indian, has allied himself closely with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in what they call ”21st century socialism.”
Elected in 2005 on a promise to nationalize Bolivia’s natural gas industry, Morales has increased the state’s presence throughout the economy and expanded benefits for the poor.
Sharing Chavez’s anti-U.S. sentiment, he has also booted Bolivia’s U.S. ambassador and Drug Enforcement Administration agents after claiming they had conspired against his government last year. Washington has denied the allegations.
Morales’ reforms remain widely popular, winning him 67 percent support in an August recall election. But his biggest project nearly failed in 2006, when an assembly convened to rewrite the constitution broke apart along largely racial lines.
In an October deal, Congress approved holding the referendum only after Morales agreed to seek one more term instead of two.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Check it out and let me know what you think. I KNOW you will LOVE it!!
Tex Dworkin, Global Exchange Director of Marketing, www.globalexchangestore.org
Another gift giving season is upon us and it’s time to decide on a shopping strategy. In one ear you’re encouraged to shop locally, in the other ear you hear about the benefits of choosing Fair Trade gifts. So which strategy is best, and is one better than the other? To answer a question with a question, who says you have to choose? The ‘Buy Local’ and Fair Trade movements both have their benefits.
One way to honor the bumper sticker mantra “Think Globally Act Locally” is to support your local businesses. Why buy cheese from Europe when there’s a dairy farm down the road producing double creamy Gouda that will knock your socks off? Buying local refers to choosing locally made products and soliciting locally owned businesses, which have environmental and social benefits. Products made locally have a smaller carbon footprint than products shipped from overseas, and thus are less of a strain on the environment. Shoppers who buy locally travel less distances to shop, which also reduces the carbon footprint. Local businesses produce more income and jobs for local communities than large retail chains do, and are more likely to utilize local services, such as advertising and banking. Supporting local businesses preserves the economic diversity of our communities and the unique character of our neighborhoods.
Sounds great, right? But what about choosing Fair Trade, another moral purchasing strategy?
Fair Trade is an economic model that ensures products are made by producers who receive a living wage, work in healthy, safe conditions and in many cases, employ environmentally sustainable processes. Fair Trade also tackles the issue of child slavery by guaranteeing that there is no abuse of child labor.
In a world economy where globalization is king and profits are queen, small-scale producers are left without resources or hope for their future. Children are forced to work instead of receiving an education and local environments suffer from the ‘profits now’ mentality that damage environments for future generations. Fair Trade helps exploited producers escape from this vicious cycle of poverty. The Fair Trade system benefits over 800,000 Farmers organized into cooperatives and unions in 48 countries. Revenue from Fair Trade cooperatives is used on a variety of community projects, including training of producers in organic and sustainable farming techniques, building houses, schools and clinics and guaranteeing health care for the whole community.
So now it’s time to decide…buy local or Fair Trade? It’s important to note that choosing Fair Trade products can actually help your local merchants survive in this sluggish economy. Prices for cheap imports made in sweatshop factories outside of the US are usually so low that local merchants have difficulty competing on price. So during a time when consumers are looking to cut costs wherever possible, cheap knock offs made in sweatshops often outsell locally made products, even though the quality is drastically lower.
Whichever you decide, the good news is that the ‘Buy Local’ and Fair Trade movements both have tremendous benefits. They support environmentally sustainable solutions, and layers of middlemen are left out of each economic model, helping to ensure that a fair percentage of profits actually reach the producers. Fair Trade and locally made products are often handcrafted with care, resulting in a higher quality product than the mass-produced sweatshop products available in big box stores, and in both cases, the preservation of cultural heritage is a by-product of doing business.
If you’re married to the idea of buying locally, remember that some items are not grown locally, like cocoa. Cocoa trees are only grown in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, South and Central America. So if you’re looking for socially conscious chocolate in the US, consider chocolate made locally with Fair Trade Certified cocoa. That way, you can support your local chocolate maker AND Fair Trade cocoa producers around the world.
Beyond chocolate, there are lots of other instances where products from the Fair Trade and Buy Local movements are harmoniously combined to create special products all their own. One example is from Handmade Expressions, a sourcing partner for socially and environmentally responsible products based in Austin, Texas. They sell their handmade copper alloy bells to local artists who incorporate the ethically produced crafts into their artwork that is then sold locally.
Some proponents of the buy local movement consider choosing Fair Trade products an ethical challenge because products imported to the US have a bigger carbon footprint than locally produced products. In an op-ed piece for Western M, Steve Brooks, the acting head of Oxfam Cymru points out that “if everyone in the United Kingdom switched one 100W light bulb to a low energy equivalent, CO² emissions would be reduced in one year by 4.7 times the amount saved by boycotting fresh fruit and vegetables from sub-Saharan Africa.” If this is true, then perhaps the carbon footprint issue is not such a big deal after all. If you’re not buying that, and you’re shopping for a coffee lover, consider Grounds for Change, the first coffee roaster in the nation to complete the rigorous third-party certification process necessary to obtain the CarbonFree® Certified Product label. To get a product certified CarbonFree®, a company must submit the item to a third-party process that formally scrutinizes the carbon emissions associated with every step in production from the country of origin to your cup.
Whether you choose local or Fair Trade products or a combination of the two this holiday, what’s most important is to shift your spending from mass produced products made in sweatshops to ethically produced products. According to the US Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, US retail e-commerce sales reached $29.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006, and e-commerce sales accounted for just 2.8% of total retail sales, so you do the math. That’s a lot of dough! Wal-Mart alone reported $340 billion of sales revenue back in their 2006 financial report. Yet the Fair Trade Federation, the US’s network of Fair Trade businesses, reported $160+ million in total member sales in 2006, a tiny crumb compared to the overall US retail pie. If just 5% of US Wal-Mart customers shift their spending to Fair Trade products this holiday season, imagine the positive impact it could have on our environment and producers’ lives?
In November 2008 a McNeil/Lehrer report estimated US retail spending at 55 billion dollars. How much of that spending is on ethically produced products is up to you, so this holiday, remember that it’s not about buying more, but rather buying differently, and every dollar you spend is a statement about how you want this world to be.