As the New Year rolls around, I thought this may be a good blog entry to re-post. Those women were truly inspiring. For those of you who didn't catch this post before, I wrote this for a local peace newsletter in my hometown and I thought you all might appreciate it.
The Goodness of People
I've been learning a very important lesson here in Ghana. The women I am working with have been teaching me that in the end, the goodness of people will be what makes the world a better place.
I first began to see this when traveling to Ghana's Northern Region with a woman I will call Mary. My task was to determine which fairtrade certification scheme would be best for the association of women she works with, and I was tagging along simply to learn more about the entire situation.
Mary has dedicated the last three years of her life to establishing a committed business relationship with an organization of women in the poorest region of Ghana. Not only is she serving as a dependable buyer, she is also helping them access foreign markets and develop better quality control measures. In order to carry out most of this business, she often has to travel a 13-hour trip between the coast and the north, quite a feat considering her 61 years and the less-than-luxurious nature of the journey.
As I began to learn about the personal investment she has put into these women's development, I realized no certification scheme - no matter how detailed, foolproof, and efficient - will be more powerful than a person simply being a good person. I realized if people just did business like her, why would we need certification systems assuring the consumer that the product was 'traded fairly'?
I've seen the same lesson reflected in the work of the NGO I am interning with. Global Mamas is fairtrade certified within a different model than Mary's operation, but the same fact rings true. Certified or not, its business model is what really makes a difference in the lives of the women it works with. The founders have dedicated themselves to conducting business centered on the empowerment of women, and I swear the co-founder with whom I work every day never stops working.
From the consumer's standpoint, certification gives confidence that the product one buys was truly produced under 'fairtrade conditions'. But honestly, from the standpoint of everyone else in the commodity chain - the retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, distributors, exporters, and finally producers - we do not need a sound certification system that assures ethical trading practices. What we need are more people like these women, acting with honor, dedication, and the hearts of lions.
I am not trying to rebuke the value of the fairtrade model and its respective certification systems. It's just that when I look forward into the future of humanity, I place my hope in people, simply people, and all the rest seems to fall to the wayside. We can try to build incredible systems that govern and assure we care for each other, but they can never rival the pure goodness that people can create all on their own. Years and years in the future, perhaps the allure of fairtrade will have faded away. When that happens, I hope people like the women I'm working with will still be working their magic.