One mother’s appeal for Fair Trade Chocolate
For years I participated in my daughter’s school fundraising program. Being a small private Christian school, I felt pressured to do what I could to help. Occasionally the purpose of the fundraising was to send money to a world mission program. Other times, my daughter received a direct benefit, a new piece of playground equipment or a class field trip.
Of all the fundraising programs, I loved the Hershey fundraising carrier kits the best. They were easiest to sell unlike over-fragranced candles or over-priced gift wrapping. I didn’t have to ask people to buy anything, take orders or chase people down for money.
I’d get my Hershey carrier box from the school, and off to work I’d go to peddle chocolates to unsuspecting co-workers. It was dead easy, I’d set the Hershey box in the office kitchen next to the coffee-maker, and leave an envelope for the money. At the end of each day, the envelope would be miraculously filled with dollars. Once I’d finish one box I’d sign-out another, and another. Needless to say my enthusiasm for this particular fundraiser was reflected in my sales.
That was all before I learned about Fair Trade.
I can’t recall when or where I tasted my first Fair Trade chocolate. But I can guess it was probably during of my frequent trips to Oxfam shops in the UK. It was then that I learned about the exploitation of children in the cocoa industry. I was mortified. Unknowingly I had participated in the enslavement of one child for the benefit of my child! And as a descendant of former slaves, my shock was profoundly soul wrenching.
I learned that children are being sold (often by their families who can’t support them) to cocoa farmers. They are forced to work under extreme conditions, as mentioned in this recent Change.org article:
“Virtually all respondents in the survey of migrant workers experienced the worst forms of child labor including: verbal, physical and sexual harassment; restrictions of their freedom of movement; performing hazardous work, including land clearing and burning; carrying heavy loads; spraying pesticides; and using machetes, among other dangerous activities.” (New Evidence of Trafficking, Child, Forced Labor in Cocoa)
From One Mother to Another
Americans are the largest consumers of chocolate in the world. That means we have the ability to make the largest impact to children in West Africa. Political means have failed thus far to tackle the problem so the responsibility for change falls on the consumer.
It is probably safe to say, all mothers want the best for their children, whether you are a mother in Burkino Faso or United States. The sad reality is that mothers in West Africa, where child trafficking is highest, have little means to change their circumstances themselves, and are therefore reliant on mothers in the US (and other Western countries) to speak up for them!
What can be done
There is one easy thing we can all do to stop child slavery in cocoa producing countries, and that is buy Fair Trade chocolate!
It’s simple, really.
Fair Trade chocolate ensures the rights of children are protected. Fair Trade certifiers audit the cocoa farmers, distributors, manufacturers, making sure adherence to labor standards are met across the entire supply chain.
When you buy Fair Trade chocolate you are sending a clear message: I will not tolerate the slavery of another mother’s child!
Conversely, when you stop buying non-Fair Trade chocolate, you are sending another clear message: either change your practices or lose my dollars!
Is the familiar taste of a Hershey’s Kit Kat bar or Reese’s cup worth another mother losing her child to slavery?
From here, I leave you to decide for yourself.
btw - the school immediately dropped the Hershey’s fundraising program.
Learn more here:
- Tracing the bitter truth of chocolate and child labour (BBC)
- Combating Child Labor in Cocoa Growing (America.gov)
- Fairtrade redoubles efforts to eliminate child labor in West African cocoa sector (FLO)
About Fair Trade Chocolate:
- Know which brands to buy. Download “Get Child Labor Out of Your Chocolate” scorecard from GreenAmerica.org
- Double your buying impact when you buy FT chocolate from a Fair Trade Store!
Advocate or join a campaign: