A rant and a $75 giveaway

There’s a bit in the bible where Jesus is sorting out the sheep from the goats and says

‘I was hungry and you fed me, I was sick and you visited me,  I needed clothes and you clothed me

How I live is important to Jesus. He determines whether I truly loved him by seeing how I treat other people. Less talk, more action, if you like.  I reckon its a good system.

Well, I haven’t clothed any poor people lately, but it appears the poor have been clothing me.



I came home from Kmart a few months ago, pretty pleased with how many kids’ t-shirts and leggings I’d bought for about $24.  I think at the time, I knew they were sweatshop clothes, but the fact that they were all half price made me feel that at least Kmart was getting less of a cut and so I justified my spending to myself.   Of course this did not change the few cents per item that the seamstresses get.   Sweatshop workers earn about $26 a month in Bangladesh and about  $52 a month in China.

About what I spend on cheese.

Over 1000 people died recently in a sweatshop clothing factory collapse in Bangladesh, and the sad story of this little girl was published recently, when a reporter went undercover.     How can I buy that stuff? How can I participate in so inhumane a trade? How could it be ok for me to benefit from this type of slavery?

What’s the answer?  I think buying fair trade stuff has got to be a big part of it.  ( I recently switched to fair trade coffee, the coffee trade is a whole other story of disenfranchisement)  Fair trade stuff can be expensive, but like with organic food, prices will drop as demand increases.

My inclination is to suggest that consuming less over all is a part of the solution. I don’t have the economic training to know what a massive drop in consumption would do for various economies. But I do know that for us westerners, a massive drop in consumption is enormously good for us. It’s good for our creativity, our gratefulness, our contentedness and our hip pocket.


I do believe that one  of  the best things we can do for our kids is to spend less money on them, and more time with them. Of course, this is wealthy-busy-parent  advice. In Asia, we certainly saw many children who badly needed money spent on them.


Despite coping fine for a year in Asia with only three outfits each, we have, of course, somehow managed to double or triple our wardrobes since.    Accumulation is something I really have to fight against. It’s kind of insidious.

And of course, I believe in reduce. repair, recycle and all that.

But does any of this really make a difference?  Is it ‘think global-act local?’  Is it a good place to start?  Or is it yet more vain preoccupation with my own life and my own choices? While, all the time,  little children sit and sew on concrete floors for 12 hours a day.


Not sure. What do you think?

I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this, so I’m giving away a $75 voucher for Novica, an online fairtrade shop. Seriously, you should check out their gorgeous jewellery and pretty clothes and just really lovely stuff. Its all handcrafted by people who got paid well for their day’s work, and went home with money to feed their kids.  Isn’t that where our spending money should go?  You can buy this stuff with a clear conscience, and of course, give it all away at Christmas!

So, leave a comment here on this blog post, OR on my facebook page, and that counts as your entry to win the voucher. I’ll draw a winner using a yet-to-be-decided random method that will probably involve my two-year old.


So, what do you think? Do you buy fair trade? How should sweatshop situations be changed?  Is it ok that the poor are clothing the rest of us?


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37 Responses to A rant and a $75 giveaway

  1. Astrid November 21, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Dear Jil, I thank you for this post. I generelly shop a lot of clothes and only 10 % are fair trade or thrifted. I will rethink this, thank you for your suggestions.

  2. arelyn November 22, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    One thing that is starting up in some parts of our city (we’re in India) is a home enterprise system. Rather than having all the workers stuck in a sweatshop, ladies are given a box of things to assemble or embroider or whatever. When the product is finished they bring in their box for inspection and are paid per piece that is adequately made. It’s not perfect. They are still paid so little for all their work but at least they can be home with their little ones and can work at their own pace. And older children can help do the work without having to sacrifice their schooling. We know more than a few who do just that; go to school the morning and assemble toys in the afternoon while minding their little siblings.

  3. Rachael November 22, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Sometimes I can get overwhelmed at not being able to do *everything*. But as I look back over my life I can see that changing one practice at a time leads to habits that become an entirely new way of living.
    Rachael recently posted..From the waterfrontMy Profile

  4. Lisa Wood November 22, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    As a mum to five boys, I could not even imagine having to put one of my kids into a job just to survive. Yet that is because we do live in the Lucky Country.
    Its scary to think that there is factories out there making so much money yet paying so little to the staff, its scary to think of the ages of the workers.
    But does that they mean they are off the streets and they are a little bit safer, or is it the double evil – working in conditions that are not safe.
    I am not sure what the solution is but I do know that I think twice before I buy anything any more – do we really need it? Where did it come from and why am I buying it. Op shops are now my favourite place to shop – its way cheaper and I am not filling up our motorhome with stuff that we do not need.
    I love reading your Rant – good to hear your thoughts on the subject of child labour/working conditions and how our society is funding the need for the jobs.
    Lisa Wood recently posted..Car Wash SaleMy Profile

  5. Debbie Jackson November 24, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    I love shopping fair trade and Novica is a favorite site of mine. Thanks for bringing it to everyone’s attention.

  6. Lean S November 25, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I am very familiar with and love Novica. The items on the site would make some wonderful gifts. Thank you for this giveaway.

  7. Brandon Pearce November 27, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    Lately, we’ve been having more of our clothes made by local tailors, with fabric we’ve purchased from local sellers. The nice thing is that it’s not any more expensive than buying clothes in a store (often less!) because we’re in Bali. But even if it were more expensive, I’d prefer it because the clothes actually fit my small body, unlike most clothes I purchase in stores, and we’re doing more to avoid supporting companies that run sweat shops.

    The way technology is headed, it’s possible that someday, all these sweat shop jobs will be replaced by robots and 3D printers, and this problem will no longer exist. Not sure what problems that will bring up in its place. In the mean time, fair trade sounds like a good idea to me.
    Brandon Pearce recently posted..Beach Clubs, Projects, and KidsMy Profile

  8. Rebecca November 27, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Hi Jill, I also try to buy fair trade. We certainly have been buying fair trade coffee for some time now, and try to support local (Australian) companies where possible. I would really like to see big organisations like private schools, supporting organisations like “stiches of hope” in Cambodia by having them supply the schools with uniforms. This would have a two fold effect. 1 support a small business in a developing country by having them provide a service for which they would be properly paid and 2 bring the cost of the school uniforms down
    Just a thought,

  9. Kobi November 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    This is something I often rant about, without actually knowing the solution. I try to buy second hand, and have clothing tailored at places that pay fairly, like Dorsu, when I visit Cambdia. Back home in Australia I often question how my tiny amount of buying power can make any difference when the masses are obliviously buying from places that don’t pay fair wages (just like I used to, and sometimes, guiltily, still do). I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m grateful to hear someone else’s take on this, and to have a read of the comments!

  10. rinajoy November 27, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    Thanks for your post. I don’t need a voucher- but I’ve been seriously wrestling with this for about 2 years now, and I am utterly convinced that our little changes make a huge difference- we get to vote for a government every 4 years, but we get to vote for how we want companies to behave, and how we want our world to function- every day! every dollar is a vote, and it all adds up.
    I agree- the first step is to consume less – rethink- reuse, reduce, recycle
    Then go for second hand, fair trade and ethical. Yes, it takes more time, but there are resources out there. The Australian Fashion Report was released earlier this year- which ranks the major companies (http://baptistworldaid.org.au/assets/Be-Fair-Section/FashionReport.pdf) and for food there is the Ethical Consumer Guide (http://www.ethical.org.au/). Its a matter of re-training ourselves.
    To really start shaking things up a bit- write to the clothing companies. Ask them where their clothes are manufactured, what conditions the workers have, where the cotton is supplied from etc – educated consumers are a dangerous thing!

  11. Ashlie November 28, 2013 at 1:45 am #

    I don’t think there is an easy answer. I went through a period of time where I boycotted any/all companies that I knew to have questionable practices. I do believe we vote with our dollars! But then I read ‘The End of Poverty’ by economist Jeffrey Sachs and he made some points that challenged me. There are various stages of development that a society must go through, like rungs on a ladder and they cannot be skipped. That said, the poorly paying factory job might a woman (or a man) a choice where she previously had none. It provides her the opportunity to move up the ladder, so to speak. Is a bad choice better than none at all? Perhaps only she can answer that. That doesn’t mean I knowingly support companies that have poor working conditions or unfair wages. I attempt to shop consciously but I’m not nearly as rigid as I once was about it.
    Ashlie recently posted..A Conversation With Kim About Confronting Hard Truths & Giving Up Bullshit ExcusesMy Profile

  12. Marc Gallipoli January 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. One day people will understand the value of labor…

  13. Susan February 2, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    Hi Jill,

    I was not aware of Novica and haven’t tried it yet either. After reading your article I am pretty much convinced that we should add some value and considering $75 for the beautiful jewellery It is worth trying. Thanks for bringing this up.


  14. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot May 5, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Buying clothes from second hand and charity shops helps reduce pollution and carbon if you can’t afford Fair Trade things…
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot recently posted..24 Hours of Luxury and Laughs on the Gold CoastMy Profile

  15. Charity November 30, 2014 at 12:13 am #

    I don’t want to stand in front of the Father and not have lived a life for Him either. I strongly believe we need to look out for our brothers and sisters around the world. Thank you for your post and awareness of the situation.

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