Friday, October 31, 2014

Olowo-n'djo's Update: Labor Equality for All

Dear Friends of Alaffia,

It is my sincere wish this letter finds you and your family in good health.  The month of October is dedicated to fair trade, during which we as people celebrate the efforts and achievements of this movement. While I am in a celebrating spirit, I cannot help but think of the magnitude of the task before us in creating a just world for all, regardless of our geographical location or birth origin. The task is great because fair trade is in direct competition with free trade.  While fair trade is a social movement with the goal of producers receiving a bigger piece of the price paid by consumers, free trade is defined as international trade unhindered by tariffs and quotas.  It is an unsettling fact that free trade is taking over Africa today, and this is why I cannot completely celebrate our achievements. 

By 2015, seven out of the ten fastest growing economies will be in Africa, yet it is impossible to see how this economic growth is raising my people out of poverty.  In fact, it is making the conditions almost worse, as the new wealth is concentrated on the top, and the capital gains are funneled out of the continent leaving little or nothing for the people at the bottom.  For instance, in Togo, the poverty rate for rural women is 74%, making education for our children unattainable.  The resulting lack of education and opportunity leads to human trafficking and child slavery. Additionally, our women produce 66% of the continent’s food, but only earn 1% of the total income. Such disparity clearly leads to gender inequality.

Selifa Ganiou
Cooperative member, Sokodé, Togo
When I think of these numbers, I see the women behind them and their pain. To me, it means the movement for fair trade of our resources must carry on and we must fight harder.  Otherwise, what does it mean to be human if we can’t ensure full human rights and dignity for all?  The stories and realities of our cooperative members are further proof this fight must continue.  One of our cooperative members, Selifa Ganiou, once shared her own experience with me: “Before my integration into the Alaffia cooperative, I moved to Benin to work in the capitol city and was without my children and my husband.  Now, since I’ve been with the cooperative for the last year, I find it possible to support the needs of my family. For example, I was able to save the life of my older brother thanks to the money that I make.  I have seven children; four are presently in school.  When the other three were school age, I was not able to live with them and did not have the means to keep them in school.  I would like to thank everyone who supports our cooperative and encourage them to take a strong hand to live happily with their families, like I am able to now that I am with the cooperative and no longer have to travel to find work.” Narratives such as these prove to me that a fair opportunity extended to one person can positively impact many more.

While the pictures and the real situations of our people on the ground may be unpleasant, we cannot and must not yield this fight. We must not be discouraged or intimidated. We must continue to dedicate our efforts toward the equality of all members of our human family.  As a result of this absolute commitment, our future generations shall rise from poverty and live in peace.  Most important to remember is that each and every one of us has the power to employ positive change upon one another.

I thank you for your continued caring and support, and believe together we can create justice on earth.

Humbly Yours,

Olowo-n’djo Tchala


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