Written by Nagomi Mukai, Production intern
Having grown up in a city in Japan, I never really appreciated products or things I would see in stores beyond seeing them on the shelf. In other words, I never felt any personal connection to the production side of each item. Thanks to new technology, geographic distance does not matter anymore in the modern world; Information spreads in less than a second, the mobility of people has improved significantly and above all, materials move from one country to another at a very fast pace according to their needs. Under the cycle of mass-production and mass-consumption on a global scale, almost all products we see in a store in Western society are “Made in China” despite the actual distance of the store from China. Fast fashion clothes are good example of the globalization. In this global business model, clothes are made using the cheapest materials and labors to keep prices affordable and are shipped to consumer countries. When fast fashion brands launched in Tokyo 5 years ago, I really liked shopping there for their extremely reasonable and trendy clothes.
I began to see things differently once I started thinking why fast fashion clothes were so cheap. A shirt that I bought for 5$ did not look as good to me as it used to after I learned about the poor working environments in clothing factories in developing countries like Bangladesh. This was the moment when I became more interested in fair trade businesses. Instead of only allowing workers to rely on donations or charity, a fair trade system enables the workers to be treated with equality as mutual business partners. I personally believe that fair trade is more sustainable than other means of aid because consumers buy products not only to help people in need but also because they simply want them.
My experience at Shanti as a production intern this summer increased my awareness of the need for using fair trade in the development field. By working with 21 members of the Women’s Income Generating Group every day and learning their stories, I realized the impact that Shanti’s work has had on their lives. Shanti’s jewelry and African textiles products are made one by one by the hands of dedicated, humble and loving women in Uganda. They are mothers and grandmothers living with HIV who work hard for their families just like people in any other country. I think it is amazing that we can support them by purchasing their beautiful handmade products online. In contrast to our society’s process of mass production, Shanti has allowed me to reflect on the preciousness of handmade products. I would like to keep engaging myself in ways to approach sustainable production so that I can continue with a career in the sustainable fashion field.
Visit our online store to purchase a one of a kind handmade gift from our Women’s Income Generating Group: http://shop.shantiuganda.org/