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“First World Problemitis” and other fair trade diseases

How well do we know Bangladesh?

Not so much, right? Recently, the country has been receiving a lot of media attention from several accidents concerning famous brands’ factories located there. Unfortunately, these accidents are not uncommon: just google the words “Bangladesh + fire” and you’ll see what’s happening. These events occur almost every single day and we only realize the magnitude of the catastrophes when the media shows them to us.

It’s obvious that a developing country needs to create more jobs for its population, yet in many cases this desperation has reached the point of setting up a business with poor infrastructure and very low-paid jobs. Some earn about a dollar per month. Have you ever thought how one would be able to survive with only that?

We have become such a consumerist society that we don’t even pay attention to our inner values anymore. We just want to buy the latest products, because everybody has it and if you don’t buy it, you’ll feel bad being the odd one out. How does this happen? And why do we choose to follow along? We don’t want to know where the products come from or who made them, we just want to have it. Will you be happy about yourself knowing that the thousands of people who made the clothes you are wearing under really poor conditions are earning a dollar for it?

The disease which we have to overcome I’ll call first world problemitis (FWP), which I will show you with two extreme diagnoses:

  1. Going to a store and realizing that the last cool pair of jeans that everybody from school owns is sold
  2. Not being able to buy the latest smartphone with all those wonderful apps

Now, when you compare these to developing world problems (DWP), you’ll see that the FWP symptoms are not bad at all. The people who suffer from the latter, the DWP, are obliged to work under poor conditions because they don’t have their basic needs filled. In comparison, their problems are way worse.

How to solve this problem? As consumers and customers, we can demand and buy products under the fair trade stamp. According to the World Fair Trade Organization, fair trade is “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.”

Let’s start the fair trade movement and help workers achieve better employment conditions and, consequently, have better lives. Just like you, they need proper jobs to take care of their families and they deserve respect for the services they are paying to our society.

Patricia Galves Derolle
Local organizer, São Paulo
Patricia is a post-graduate student of International Relations who was born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil. Her first overseas experience was a solo trip, in 2007, to Europe, where she took an internship in Brussels, and traveled all around for 45 days. Since then, she’s been around the world!

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