I appreciated hearing the opinion of Ibrahim Kakwan concerning child labor (‘Fair trade’ tragedy, 03/26/2009). His perspective as a former resident of El Salvador is one that we do not often hear at the University.
I am sure it is true that impoverished children who do not have access to jobs in manufacturing or farming are more likely to turn to prostitution or to gangs in order to survive. But this fact does not lead me to feel that I should support multinational companies that use child labor.
Instead, it strengthens my resolve to work to ensure that children in developing countries have greater access to education and resources. It makes me feel even more strongly that I should show my support for legislation like the Education for All Act, which would assist developing nations in ending the school fees that keep many impoverished children from getting an education.
In addition, I know companies that use child labor will likely not miss my business, as they tend to make large profits. I feel that my money is better spent on clothing made in worker-owned cooperatives or on fair-trade certified coffee. The companies who make these goods are more likely to pay their workers livable wages, enabling their children to attend school and not have to work in a factory or join a gang to survive. I feel that the money I spend on these goods has a far greater positive impact than money spent on sweatshop-produced merchandise ever could.
Pharmacy graduate student