Work and Money
Cllr Joshua Peck celebrates the award
Fairer than ever
By Angela Saini
Tower Hamlets has become the eleventh London borough to be awarded the status of ‘Fairtrade Borough’ by the Fairtrade Foundation – but what does it mean?
Aboard an old steam ship, in the heart of London's historic trade hub, politicians and campaigners have met to celebrate the recognition of Tower Hamlets as a 'Fairtrade Borough'.
"We're a local council but we can have a global reach. Getting Fairtrade status is just the beginning," Councillor Joshua Peck announced at the event on the SS Robin, which is moored in the Docklands.
He highlighted the irony that the area had been a centre of the international slave trade two centuries earlier, but was now the scene of a struggle for workers rights of a different kind, through more equal trade with the developing world.
What does it mean?
The campaign has been led by Tower Hamlets Fairtrade Group, which has organised talks and events for local people since November 2005.
In order to qualify as a 'Fairtrade Borough', Tower Hamlets Council must serve Fairtrade tea and coffee at council meetings and there should be at least 21 Fairtrade outlets in the borough.
Schoolchildren have also been learning about the value of fairer trade in citizenship classes. "The children have a very strong sense of injustice," says Chris Loades, a teacher at John Scurr Primary School in Stepney, which was visited by a Nicaraguan coffee worker last year.
Tower Hamlets is the eleventh London borough to win a Fairtrade Foundation certificate. Once 17 boroughs are awarded the status, London will be able to call itself a 'Fairtrade City'.
Harder for some
Although Tower Hamlets has enjoyed a rise in organic and Fairtrade outlets over the last decade, the premium charged on such products often makes them too expensive for many local residents. The borough is among the most deprived in Britain, with more than half of children living below the poverty line.
Vinod Dhawale, manager of Friend’s Organic store in Bethnal Green, says that his customers tend to be wealthier people, very few of whom are from the local Bangladeshi population. "It’s too expensive for them. They won’t pay 20 pence for a single banana," he says.
Emma Snow, a member of the Tower Hamlets Fairtrade Group, says that even if people cannot afford to buy Fairtrade, they can still support the campaign by lobbying the government. She says: "The real problem is unfair international trade rules."
last updated: 27/12/2007 at 15:33