Continues from part one here
Women and children are the majority of the exploited and violated work forces. What is the importance of the status of women’s and children’s rights in the ethical and sustainable fashion world too?
Where to begin! As we create safe conditions for women and children, we create a better society. In North America, we may not think about it because we enforce rules against child labour and women have pretty amazing rights compared to other countries.
The truth is that the rights of women truly help a society to grow. Women’s labour force participation is crucial to the growth and innovation of any industry and economy. In the sustainable world, I believe that as we champion women’s labour (and paying them fair wages, not discriminating against them if they have children etc) and reject products made by children, we send a message to other people that there is a better way.
I don’t think that we can pressure any country to enforce or enact laws that protect their citizens, but we can reward specific businesses and organizations that are in line with what we think is right. As those businesses start to do well, others will take note and follow.
Children are the most vulnerable population. Women tend to have less status than men in societies including the right to decent working conditions, decent pay, to vote, and so on. What is the relationship between the need to implement women’s rights and children’s rights?
The relationship between women’s rights and children’s rights is a close one. As women start to gain equality they are in a better position to take care of their children. As a mother of two I understand this. If a woman is getting paid 70% less than a man, as is possible in other countries, then she may HAVE to ask her children to work to pay the bills. Now, if the same woman is getting paid a decent wage, she will ALWAYS put her children first: send them to school, buy them decent clothing, give them great food.
I think that women’s rights are children’s rights. I would say the 95% of mothers do the best that they can with what they have. They would never put their children in harm’s way unless they were forced to. As women gain more equality and power, their children will do better. This is not to say that we don’t need children’s rights. All I am saying is that as long as a mother has the tools she needs to care for her family (or have access to proper family planning) the better off children are.
Child labour and slavery are problems, major ones. These include children throughout the world. Tens of millions of children in the case of child labour and a few million for child slavery. How can individuals get the word out about these other rights violations?
I can’t say that I have the full answer for this question, but what I would do is talk to the people around you about these issues – get them thinking about it. Personally, I would call up CBC and ask them to do a story on this issue. The media has a lot of power (rightly or wrongly). If you find an organization that is doing good work in this field share their message and consider supporting their cause through your time or financially. I would also implore people to really do their research before sending money to a charity. Check how they spend their funds and inquire about their long-term plans.
How can individuals, designers, fashion industries, and consumers begin to work to implement those rights so that these vulnerable populations in many countries of the world have better quality of life?
Ask questions! If you are a designer, ask your suppliers about the materials they use, ask about the labour conditions. Request to see the facilities that the products are made in. Source as local as possible. That way you know exactly who made your items.
As a consumer, I always shop local for clothing and other household items. If I do buy clothes that are made overseas I shop consignment. I do my research before I buy things. I will go online, look up the company, and then go back and buy the thing I want.
Another thing you can do as a customer is write a letter (seriously, no one gets mail anymore, so it makes it special!). I once wrote a letter to my car maker complaining about their sponsorship of the World Cup in Qatar. There are some serious human rights violations going on with the construction of facilities. I told them that my last car was a Hyundai, I just bought a new Hyundai, my sister drives a Hyundai, and they could be sure that if they don’t review their sponsorship they would be losing a customer.
I did get a response back from Hyundai Canada saying that they would take up the issue with the global office. I really appreciated the response. I know that my personal lifetime spend with the company isn’t big, but at least they know that someone, somewhere is watching. If I care and took the time to tell them, then at least 10 other people care!
At the end of the day, it really comes down to a morality thing. Do you care? If you do care, do everything in your power to change a situation or fix a problem.