By Catherine Perkins, First Year Classics with Archaeology and Theology
Every John’s student will remember the early days of Freshers’ Week, perhaps for the fear, perhaps for the nights out, perhaps for making friends, or perhaps for trying to navigate their way round Durham and the unnecessary complications of the Online Timetable. But perhaps you might just remember the point in Freshers’ Week, when the Freps or Exec are getting thin on the ground of new ways to enthuse you about your new life at John’s, and turn to discussing the famous alumni.
the streams of Bishops and eminent theologians, culminating in the current Archbishop of Canterbury
So the list commences, usually starting with, but quickly passing over, the streams of Bishops and eminent theologians, culminating in the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Then they turn to Rachel Schofield, you know, that BBC News Presenter and Journalist… and last, but not least, Richard Adams, the founder of UK Fairtrade Organisations and recipient of and OBE for services to ethical trading. After gradually losing focus, you didn’t see that one coming. Perhaps you didn’t really care, thinking more about the evening walk-down to Klute.
But we should care. Fairtrade affects us all, and we should be conscious of it. We are all guilty of going down to Tesco during summatives and essay crises, even in our dressing gowns and slippers at times (no names mentioned…), and buying chocolate, biscuits or doughnuts in the cheapest way possible. Somehow going to bed at 2am feeling slightly sick with a summative complete is far more appealing than avoiding the procrastination of the chocolate-buying outing in the first place, and settling down at a more reasonable time of night. I don’t know many people who haven’t been there.
we don’t take the time to check for the fairtrade symbol on the packet
In the haste, hunger and desperation, we don’t take the time to check for the fairtrade symbol on the packet. Even if we’re already ashamed about going and resorting to chocolate in the first place, we should be even more ashamed about not going fairtrade.
For the last two weeks, John’s has been celebrating fairtrade fortnight, recognising the people who grow our food (particularly our chocolate!), living in some of the poorest countries of the world. Many of these are women who are exploited and underpaid. The Fairtrade Foundation states that £1.86 is the amount a cocoa farmer in West Africa needs to earn daily, but that they typically live on just 74p a day. Gendered salaries mean this is even worse for women.
Furthermore, between 2016 and 2017, global cocoa prices dropped by more than 1/3, and disease and age damaged cocoa trees. More and more young people are dropping out of cocoa farming as they are not benefitting sufficiently, with many remaining in poverty; their income fails to match the rising production costs and household expenses.
This year, the Fairtrade Fortnight campaign, ‘She Deserves a Living Income’, seeks to work together with governments, chocolate companies, and retailers to make policies of living income a reality, so that cocoa workers can live in dignity and be able to afford essential items, such as clothing, medicine and education, arguing that this is a human right.
we can make small steps to improve our fairtrade footprint
I sincerely doubt any of us can find a feasible argument against this. But it is not enough to stand by while the campaign goes on; hearing but not really listening, watching but not really seeing. Perhaps you’ve got involved with the fairtrade cocktail night this week, or the bake sale, or even the quiz, but you don’t have to end your support of fairtrade here. We, as a college, may not be able to change the world, but we can make small steps to improve our fairtrade footprint.
Perhaps you might consider some of these suggestions:
- Talk about it: in the Dining Hall this week, there have been fairtrade leaflets, which have already provoked several conversations. Share your opinions, and encourage debate; get together with friends to organise an event, or encourage your housemates to make a pact to go fairtrade.
- Download fairtrade recipes from the fairtrade website, and give them a go with a group of friends.
- Share on social media – the fairtrade website has a whole host of resources for Instagram/Twitter/Facebook stories and posts which can get the message out to far beyond our community.
- Keep thinking about how we can improve as a college – at the SJCR meeting on Monday, a question arose as to whether we could have more fairtrade snacks in the vending machine. By supporting motions like these, you can make small changes which will affect the whole college.
- Sign this online petition to improve living income for cocoa farmers
And most importantly, next time you make the stressful run down to Tesco to dive into the chocolatey summative-abyss, take a second to find the Fairtrade Foundation logo. Even if the essay seems like the worst disaster in the world, maybe you might just remember those who, surviving on 74p a day, deserve all the help we can give.
Catherine Perkins is a first year student studying Classics with Theology and Archaeology. She is the Social Media Officer for the John’s SJCR and also works as a Durham Student Ambassador. In her spare time Catherine enjoys singing in the Chad’s Choir, playing the cello with JMS, writing, exploring the local area and tutoring. Catherine is also a Type 1 Diabetic, and raises awareness about living with Type 1 Diabetes, and those living with invisible disabilities. If you can’t find her in the college library, she’ll usually be in the Cathedral, or finishing her assessment of which café in Durham serves the best tea and scones!