For me, the event was a chance to demonstrate that it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or where you live - we all have the power to change the world with Fairtrade. The room in Parliament was full of people from all walks of life, from all corners of the UK and all political parties; coming together to share a passion and a commitment to a common goal: Fairtrade.
We all have our part to play – whether you are offering your neighbour or work colleague a Fairtrade brew, or taking to the streets as a banana; whether you host an event or share a tweet; whether you write to your MP or speak to a Government Minister. EACH of these actions makes a huge difference, and they are all connected. One does not happen without the other; it is by working together as consumers, campaigners and policy makers, that we will create real change for the poorest people in our world.
This was echoed throughout the event in Parliament. I spoke to Government Ministers and MPs, I spoke to students from Leys School and campaigners from Wales. I spoke to Government Whips and members of the Lords. I spoke to business leaders and Fairtrade Foundation staff. I spoke to Leonard Kachebonaho, a coffee farmer representative from Tanzania. All had the same agenda: to put Fairtrade at the heart of decision making, particularly at the heart of trade negotiations following Brexit.
It was empowering to hear Rory Stewart, DFID Minister of State, speak so passionately about the fact that Fairtrade matters. That development isn’t all about economic growth, but it’s about equity and justice to producers. That Fairtrade is a powerful solution; enabling people to lift themselves out of poverty as it connect consumers with producers. That Fairtrade has symbolic value and is extremely important.
To hear Rory Stewart MP speak alongside Leonard Kachebonaho was incredibly moving. He lives Fairtrade and could share, with real passion, the difference it makes to him and his community. “Fairtrade,” he told the room, “allows people on the ground to improve by investing the premium in social projects.” Leonard shared how Fairtrade supports farmers pastorally, through a value added supply chain, through environmental projects, through sustainability, and through improving quality; ultimately growing producers OUT of the poverty cycle. The power of Fairtrade is not to be underestimated.
The Co-op are certainly aware of the power of Fairtrade, and Cathryn Higgs was at the event to share the brilliant news that ALL co-op own brand products containing cocoa will now contain Fairtrade cocoa. From the sprinkles on a doughnut, to Easter Eggs, and even in the batter of co-op own fishfingers (yes, really) – they are showing a better way of doing business and putting Fairtrade at the core of what they do. And students from Leys School in Cambridge gave a brilliant presentation reminding us all of the power of our individual actions when we shop.
I was particularly pleased to hear from Holly Lynch MP and Jason McCartney MP. With fairandfunky, I work closely with them both, and knowing they are the co-chairs of the Fairtrade APPG gives me hope. Politically opposed, they come together, determined to put Fairtrade at the front of trade negotiations. They both talked about the power of local campaigners and how it is by working together, and sharing the stories of Fairtrade producers that Fairtrade can come into its own.
For if there is Fairtrade other things will undoubtedly follow: education, democracy, health, sanitation, empowerment and respect.
I left the event with a real sense that change is possible. There seemed to be real commitment from everyone in the room to do their bit for Fairtrade producers; and to take their own little steps to change the world. And it is down to each and every one of us to keep the conversations of Fairtrade going beyond the 14 days of Fairtrade Fortnight; keeping Fairtrade on everyone’s agenda, and making a real difference.