As part of the Fair Trade Town Steering Committee and manager of the Ten Thousand Villages store in Brandon, I am often asked the question: “What does that mean?”
It is an excellent – and important – question! What exactly does it mean to be a “Fair Trade Town”?
The Fair Trade Town campaign is an initiative run jointly by Fairtrade Canada and the Canadian Fair Trade Network. According to the Fair Trade Town Action Guide, there are six criteria that need to be met in order to achieve Fair Trade Town status:
- Political Support. Members of what is now the City of Brandon’s Fair Trade Town Steering Committee approached the Mayor and City Council in September 2013, proposing to go ahead with the Fair Trade Town campaign. They were met with unanimous approval from the city, and the Mayor has been a tremendous supporter for the campaign since day one.
- Availability of Products. Based on the size of the city’s population, there must be a certain number of restaurants/cafés and retail outlets that offer two or more Fair Trade products. For the City of Brandon, this meant seven of the former and 14 of the latter – Ten Thousand Villages being at the top of the list, naturally! Once members of the committee and the community in general began approaching different businesses and asking for Fair Trade products, we noticed a substantial increase in the availability of those products. We are proud to report that, as of today, there are seven restaurants and 16 retail outlets (in addition to Ten Thousand Villages) that offer two or more Fair Trade products!
- Community Support. Members of the steering committee have certainly made our presence known in the City of Brandon! We have attended many public events, bringing along Fair Trade coffee and chocolate for sampling and lots of information about the benefits of Fair Trade to artisans and farmers around the world. Having been involved with Ten Thousand Villages in some capacity for a long time, I have always known that people in Brandon and the surrounding communities are supporters of Fair Trade, but the new excitement about the Fair Trade Town movement has been tremendous. The community is excited; we as the committee are excited; and I’m sure the artisans who will be the greatest benefactors of these efforts are excited as well.
- Public Education. We’re in the paper, we’re on the radio, and we’re all over the community. As the manager of Ten Thousand Villages, I often have school groups come in to learn more about the store and about Fair Trade. I have also travelled to different events and groups and taken products for “show and tell.” The Marquis Project, a nonprofit organization in the City of Brandon that is committed to the strengthening of international development, has spearheaded the Fair Trade Town movement in Brandon, and they too have an education coordinator who travels to schools and communities to spread the word about Fair Trade.
- Fair Trade Town Steering Committee. We are a group of eleven individuals from various organizations in our community who are committed to this cause. We meet once a month to discuss ideas, plan events, coordinate social media and other outreach opportunities, and of course, share some wonderful Fair Trade coffee!
- Keep the Momentum. Even though the City of Brandon has achieved the Fair Trade Town designation, we’re not done yet. This is just the first major stepping stone on a life-long path toward fairness – not just in our community, but around the world. We continue to be committed to spreading the word about the importance of Fair Trade, making the movement known in the community, and increasing awareness about the growing availability of Fair Trade products in our fair city.
So what does it mean to be a Fair Trade Town? It means more than simply being part of a community that is dedicated to Fair Trade. It is a public declaration that we, as citizens of the City of Brandon, Manitoba, are committed to seeing fairness, justice and dignity brought to the lives of our global neighbours.
And really, isn’t that what Fair Trade is all about?
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