“I Fight for Freedom” was the theme of “Human Trafficking Awareness Month” in Houston, Texas. During the month of September, the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition sponsored a variety of events which included movies nights and workshops to raise awareness about human trafficking and the community can get involved in the movement to abolish “modern day slavery.” On Sept. 25, the Dominican Sisters of Houston provided the venue for the second annual, Shop Smart event, “I Shop for Freedom.” Shoppers had the opportunity to shop for Fair Trade products as well as products made by survivors of human trafficking or from vendors who donate their proceeds to social justice and human rights projects. Catholic Relief Services and Te House of Tea provided samples of Fair Trade tea. Many shoppers came with Christmas lists and purchased gifts from Ten Thousand Villages, Sweet Notions, and Night Lights.
Shoppers also had the opportunity to learn more about why socially conscious shopping is important. Dr. Michael Conroy, a board member of Fair Trade USA, presented a brief overview on the role that Fair Trade plays in reducing the vulnerability for those who are at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. He explained that the role of the board is to insure that items with the Fair Trade logos have been certified. Along with insuring that people are paid a living wage and there is no slave labor involved, a social premium is paid to the community and the community decides how the money should be spent. He went on to explain that by buying Fair Trade products you can be assured that no human being has been exploited in growing, producing, transporting, selling the product. That is, no form of forced, coerced, or child labor has been used.
Another aspect of the event was an action center where shoppers had an opportunity to sign petitions. One was to ask Congress to act on the “Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.” The other was to promote efforts to make Houston a “Fair Trade” city. One of the questions asked of Dr. Conroy, “Are more stores carrying Fair Trade products?” He responded by saying that despite the economic situation, stores are responding to consumer demand and providing Fair Trade products. People are buying more responsibly and making wiser choices and want to buy ethically made products. He suggested that if we don’t find what we want, ask for it, and store managers will respond in order to keep your business.
Article and photo submitted by Dominican Sisters of Houston