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Eid Clothes, A fair trade and ethical perspective by Sabeena Ahmed

Eid Clothes, A fair trade and ethical perspective by Sabeena Ahmed

My personal perspective on purchasing Eid clothes and is the global modest fashion market catering for Muslim Ethical Consumers?

IN MEMORIAM

 My beautiful mother the late Mrs Meshar Mumtaz Bano, modelling Noah's Ark International fair trade cuffs, June 2012. Miss you always! Love Sabeena

I'd like to begin this blog with love and gratitude for my beloved mother.

Mrs Meshar Mumtaz Bano who returned to her maker April 2016.

Mum encouraged me to participate in the Six Items Challenge 2012 when she was first diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

 

Mrs Meshar Mumtaz Bano - Fairtrade advocate and Labour Behind The Label supporter

 My beloved mother Mrs Meshar Mumtaz Bano 

Thank you for your unconditional love, compassion and kindness.

You taught me to live my life with dignity, honesty and compassion.

Miss you always! X

 

My personal perspective of purchasing Eid Clothes...

 
The word Eid, Eid clothes and Ramadan evoke memories of my late beloved mother, cooking iftar for hundreds, reading the Noble Quran and painstakingly hand stitching my Eid clothes and during the early hours of the morning after (suhoor) sehri during the blessed month of Ramadan. Such poignant childhood memories are a blessing.

 

I wish I could travel back in time and tell my mother how much I appreciated the love and passion she invested, to make us, my sister and I look beautiful on the first day of Eid.
 
40 years later, I patiently scroll through the endless list of ready made and unstitched Eid clothes websites.

 

As a self confessed conscious ethical consumer I am shopping online for my sister who is far more fashionable than I am. I struggle to find any ethical sustainable or fairtrade shalwar kameez (traditional Pakistani costume) brands and end my search defeated and disappointed.

 

I hope that South Asian shopping habits and values will change.

As a fairtrade retailer, campaigner and educator, it is clear to see that fair trade organisations, be they cotton farmers, home based workers or organic cotton and natural fibre manufacturers have all realised that consumers, people and the planet are important.

Fair Trade producer groups and organisations have made it their core mission value to support the 10 Principles of Fair Trade and the Sustainable Development Goals to promote social, trade and environmental justice.

Muslim modest fast fashion companies and brands need to understand that there are ethical consumers like myself who want to know how their clothes are made and explain their transparent supply chains,

As a consumer I would like Muslim fast fashion brands to support climate change and feel proud and happy that they aren't polluting the planet or exploiting a garment worker.

Yes! Many Muslim consumers want to know 'Who Made My Clothes?'

We want to know if you are a company or brand that offers a fair decent living wage, provides good working conditions and is happy for your employees to join a trade union and bargain collectively.

Yes! We are interested if you support the Sustainable Development Goals, are part of Climate Action, and want to be a part of the circular economy. 

Transparency, honesty and accountability are essential and ethics plays an important role when targeting consumers like myself.

If you are an Asian or modest fast fashion brand and you can't address where your products are grown, created and crafted, you've lost my custom. 

Empty words and green washing are not acceptable.

If you are an Asian fast fashion brand and are interested in fair trade, climate action and the sustainable development goals click on links below.

Please do not hesitate to contact me or the follow the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Clean Clothes Campaign, Labour Behind The Labour, and the World Fair Trade Organization on social media for advice and support.

There are over 35 million garment workers around the world who sew our clothes. 10 per cent of which have already been laid off since the pandemic began with millions more facing termination, hunger and debt. Their stories are never told and many consumers turn a blind eye, because cheap clothes make them feel beautiful, but at what cost?

The hard hitting images of garment workers working in hazardous buildings and workshops, working long hours for little wages, enduring poor working conditions, encountering sexual exploitation from management and increasingly living in poverty and debt are reasons why I haven't purchased Eid clothes for many years.

 

As a Muslim female social entrepreneur, fairtrade campaigner and educator,
I decided a long time ago that I would simply refuse to support brands who fail to provide garment workers a decent living wage, implement good working conditions, disclose their supply chains and ignore climate change and fast fashion pollution. 
 
Over the past 12 years I have interviewed and talked to many women and fair trade producer groups.

 

Mrs Jamila, of the Home Based Women's Workers Federation Karachi, Interview with Sabeena Ahmed 2011 and 2015

The majority are women, like Mrs Jameela, a home worker and member of the Home Based Workers Federation Pakistan clearly expressed her frustration when I interviewed her in 2011.

 

She explained that middlemen often paid her a few hundred rupees for a hand embroidered kurta which took her days to produce only then to delay payment for months at a time.

 

She said it was heart breaking for her to see her hand embroidered clothes on sale at independent boutiques for tens of thousands of rupees. She is the only bread winner and needs to support her family and send her children to school.

 

 Below is my interview with General Secretary Zehra Khan of the Home Based Women's Workers Federation Karachi and activist and member Mrs Jamila.

 

 

Who was Jeyasre Kathiravel?

Jeyasre Kathiravel was an Indian Dalit woman garment worker and union member organizing against gender-based violence and harassment at major Indian garment manufacturer that supplies to American and European fashion brands.

 

As reported in the Guardian, Jeyasre faced months of sexual harassment by her supervisor before he murdered her in January. Since her death, twenty-five other women garment workers at the same factory have since come forward publicly describing a culture of gender-based violence & harassment at the particular unit where Jeyasre worked, Natchi Apparels.

Global Labour Justice - International Labor Rights Forum

 

This needs to STOP!

 

Fashion brands need to take accountability. Jayshre death is one death too many. 

We as consumers must pay a fair price for clothes, no woman should be exploited or die for the sake of fast fashion. 
 
Consumers have the power, we can vote with our wallets and demand brands make sure their garment workers are paid a decent fair living wage, are given good working conditions, do not face sexual harassment, are allowed to join a trade union and bargain collectively and do not pollute the earth and commit to using upcycled and recycled sustainable materials promoting a circular economy.

 

With all the above in mind I realised I had to visit home workers and fairtrade artisans around the world.

I fulfilled a life time ambition to visit Pakistan December 2011 and February 2015 and met the only two fair trade certified organisations in Karachi and Rawalpindi.
It is in Haripur I met one of the most strong women who have had the most impact on my life.

 

GULSHAN BIBI

The Little Fair Trade Blog, Gulshan Bibi and Family, Haripur, Pakistan 2011 interview with Sabeena Ahmed

Gulshan Bibi is one of the most extraordinary women I have ever had the opportunity to meet. She is a business woman, mother, social activist and inspiration for all.

She became a widow at a young age and started to embroider clothes in her town of Haripur.

Samina Bibi Founder of SABAH PAKISTAN visited Haripur 30 years ago and decided to support Gulshan Bibi and retail her products in Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Samina Bibi sold all Gulshan Bibi's embroidered products and returned with the profits.

She then encouraged Gulshan Bibi to persuade other women in Haripur to establish a co-operative and raise awareness for fair trade, fair wages much to the annoyance of men who weren't supportive and opposed the women.

Over the years the men realised that these courageous women have brought economic prosperity to the area and tourists are a good source of income.

The ladies have built a large school and train other ladies in the rural villages.

I cannot express my adoration for this woman.

She welcomed me into her home and I met with her daughters and grand children.

There was an electricity power cut, hence the darkness in the interview.

It was very cold outside.

I hope to visit Gulshan Bibi again soon.

 

 

Here is my summary of Gulshan Bibi's interview

 

MY PERSONAL JOURNEY OF FAST FASHION AND RAISING AWARENESS FOR GARMENT WORKERS

 

SIX ITEMS CHALLENGE 2021

WITH LABOUR BEHIND THE LABEL

 

SIX ITEMS CHALLENGE 2020 & 21 GALLERY

 Six Items Challenge 21 with Sabeena Ahmed and Labour Behind The Label

Sabeena supporting the Six Items Challenge 2021

with Labour Behind The Label, London, UK

Items 1&2 printed cotton dress and black trousers

 

Six Items Challenge 21 with Sabeena Ahmed and Labour Behind The Label, International Women's Day 21 Poster #WomenOfFairTrade #ChooseToChallenge
 Sabeena supporting International Women's Day 21
#WomenOfFairTrade
#ChooseToChallenge 

 

 Six Items Challenge 2020 - black traditional style Pakistani dress with gold pattern purchased by my late mother

Black cotton traditional Pakistani dress purchased by my late mother

(item no 3)

 

 

My items of clothing 

 Photo to be added

 

 Clothes for the fashion fast

Photo to be added

 

Sabeena Ahmed - Six Items Challenge 20 (a six week fashion fast for garment workers) with Labour Behind The Label

 

SIX ITEMS CHALLENGE 2021

WITH LABOUR BEHIND THE LABEL

INTRODUCTION

For the past 9 years I've been raising awareness for garment workers by supporting the Six Items Challenge with Labour Behind the Label. I blog and vlog in Urdu and English and try to inform and educate the general public and Muslim consumers about a decent living wage and good working conditions.

For the ninth consecutive year participating in the Six Items Challenge with Labour Behind The Label.

This year the challenge commenced 17th February - 31st March 2021. 

I decided to participate and support the Six Items Challenge for the ninth year because I started to campaign for garment and factory workers while caring for my mother who had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

The six items challenge means I choose six items of clothing to wear for six weeks.

 

It is a long term ambition to design a fairtrade slow fashion collection in memory of my beautiful mother Mrs Meshar Mumtaz Bano and support fair trade certified cotton farmers, sustainable and ethical producers.

My beloved mother was a great advocate for women's empowerment and education.

I believe she would have been happy and proud of me to continue my campaigning for the millions of countless individuals producing clothes and accessories in factories and workshops around the world.

Hopefully by the end of the Six Week Challenge I would have educated a few people and raised a few pounds/dirhams.

 

WHAT IS FAST FASHION?

Fast fashion is a term the fashion industry uses to entice consumers to purchase new trends, products and accessories every six to eight weeks. Some collections can be produced within a 12 day time frame.

Most of the products are cheap, poor quality and mass produced by workers in factories, work shops around the world.

Workers are paid low salaries, endure long hours and work in poor conditions to support their families.

Fair and Sustainable Textiles - Clothing Factory Workers Salary in Bangladesh 86 Euros a living wage would be at least 282 Euros.

Many are as young as 14 are the only bread winners and often forfeit the chance of a decent education and future

Many factories use hazardous chemicals to dye their fabrics and this water is discharged into rivers and the sea polluting eco systems and depleting fish stocks.

I hope to record vlogs in English and Urdu to raise awareness about garment workers over the next coming weeks.

Best regards to all the Six Items Challenge participants.

Love and regards
Sabeena X

 

WEEK ONE - Introduction to the Six Items Challenge 2021 (English)

 

 

WEEK TWO - The Six Items Challenge 2021 and What is Fast Fashion? (Urdu) 

 

WEEK THREE - The Six Items Challenge items of clothing in English

 

 

WEEK FOUR - Labour Behind The Label's Campaign (English)

 
We were under lockdown or lock in as I prefer to call it during the last two weeks of the fashion fast.

 

As the Corona Virus (Covid 19) pandemic spread around the world and we all stayed indoors for safety and support for key workers.

 

 

WEEK FIVE - Labour Behind The Labour Campaign (Urdu)



 

WEEK SIX -  Thank You! (English) TBA

 

 

I try to live by the philosophy of consume less, live simple.
 
This Eid I'll be making precious memories with my loved ones and praising the Almighty I was given health, literacy and the opportunity to do good and support garment workers and fair trade producers by writing this article.
 
Eid shouldn't just be about looking good it should be making the world and everyone around you a part of a more inclusive equal and fair society.

 

HOW CAN YOU TAKE ACTION?

Helen Barlow Scott and Sabeena Ahmed celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight 2017 Dubai UAE
With the help of my wonderful Creative Director Helen Barlow Scott we designed the following poster.

 

 

The Little Fair Trade Blog, Being Ethical is so easy when you're out and about poster, created by The Little Fair Trade Shop and the One Line Studio

 

TOP 10 TIPS TO FAIR TRADE AND ETHICAL SHOPPING

 

1. Seek Fairtrade, organic, slave free and eco friendly labels.

 

 2. Support socially conscious brands.

 

3. Buy only what you love and be selective
and ask 'Who made my clothes?'
'Do I really need to buy it?'

 

4. Do your research if you can't see where the product is made the company does not want to know.

 

5. Think beyond the end result where did the sourcing happen and what is product made of?

 

6. Reduce waste by avoiding disposable products.

 

7. Shop locally and support independent designers and boutiques.

 

8. Shop vintage and upcycled for truly unique products.

 

9. Speak up - ask designers and shops where their products are made.

 

10. Make it yourself and impress your friends with your new found skills.

 

HAPPY SHOPPING, SEWING AND CRAFTING! :)

 

More Questions we all need to ask ourselves...

 

Think twice when out and about conducting that much needed retail therapy.
Do you really need that skirt, blouse, dress, shoes, bags?

 

Could you purchase an ethical alternative that supports artisans, doesn't exploit animals and protects the environment?

 

IF the answers are yes than find out where the shops are in your local area.
Do you have a creative streak?
Why not upcycle that old blouse, dress or jacket you just can't throw away. Take up sewing or enrol on a fashion design course at your local college maybe even invite a friend or two.

 

Alternatively, if like me you like a good bargain, how about walking down to your local charity shop, visit your local car boot sale or donate your clothing to organisations who support millions without adequate clothing.

 

A recent survey indicated that American consumers throw away 68 pounds of clothing in their lifetime. Clothes and accessories that take years to decompose in landfills.

 

Why not host ''The True Cost'' a documentary showcasing fast fashion and the treatment of garment workers around the world and organise a clothes swap.

 

Why wait?
Start today...inspire others and be an ethical conscious consumer, support garment workers, fairtrade and ethical producers receive a decent living wage and good working conditions.
Take Action what you can do as a Muslim consumer once the pandemic has been eradicated.

Support organizations like Labour Behind the Label, the Clean Clothes Campaign, the Asian Wage Floor who advocate and champion for garment workers rights. Follow their social media handles for up to date information about live campaigns.

If you want to take a more hands on approach think about hosting your very own clothes swap.

Sell your Pre loved clothes online

In the meantime write to your favourites online shalwar kameez/sari brands and hold them accountable for garment workers, living wages and good working conditions.

Demand they take care of their garment workers by guaranteeing a decent living wage throughout the pandemic

 

Wishing everyone a blessed and happy Eid Mubarak! Sabeena 

 

 Further Reading and Links

Jamila Buwa - Home Based Workers Federation, Karachi

Gulshan Bibi - WFTO Member, Entrepreneur and Activist

Justice For Jeyasre Kathiravel

Six Items Challenge 21 with Sabeena Ahmed

Fair Trade Ethical Ramadan with Sabeena Ahmed (TBA)

The Clean Clothes Campaign

Labour Behind The Label

The Sustainable Development Goals

The World Fair Trade Organization

 





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Translation in Urdu
اردو میں ترجمہ
میری زندگی کے مشکل ترین اوقات میں خواندگی میری روشنی

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خواندگی کا عالمی دن 2021 مبارک ہو۔

اس سال میں نے خواندگی کا عالمی دن منایا جو کہ اس دن ہوتا ہے۔
8 ستمبر ہر سال۔

اس سال میں نے سوشل میڈیا پر ورلڈ لٹریسی فاؤنڈیشن کے لیے مہم چلائی۔

 

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