Mitch Teberg, MAAssociateMember
On January 19th, I received a reply from Reykia Fick, Media Relations Manager of FairtradeInternational:Thanksso much for getting in touch and for your support on this and other Fairtradeissues. We’ve decided not to do a rebuttal to the latest Bloomberg article at this time.Our primary concern now is the safety, well-being and right to privacy of the people andthe community featured in the article. The situation in Burkina Faso is complex and thestory brings attention to a serious problem. Our work on this case continues, but evenmore important is ensuring that all actors work to address the broader issue of ‘enfantsconfies.’ We remain committed to tackling the wider issue of child labour in Burkina Fasoand are finalizing the details of an intensive training and awareness programme, whichwill be rolled out among farmers and communities there. We feel that tocomment moreextensively on specific details in the latest Bloomberg article at this time could invitefurther attention toward the people and communities involved, which may not be in their best interest.Clearly, Fairtrade International has chosen tomove on and address the issue in Burkina Fasorather than spending the time and effort in exchanging words with Bloomberg Media.Throughout this process I have been reaching out to other Fair Trade advocates and thoseknowledgeable of the multiple environments in which Fair Trade is engaged. Admittedly, tryingto remain neutral in this case is difficult and it appears that Rodney North of Equal Exchangestated it best in an email exchange we had concerning this issue,
"We have a he said/she said situation.The journalist has said X, and the parties (included The Limited Brands) have said “anti-X”. Both parties, of course, have a very strong vested interest in sticking to their version."
I am not certain closure with a definitive decision on "who is rightand who is wrong" is possiblein this case. However, this exchange does bring up two issues. Firstly, forced child labour associally acceptable in impoverished countries; and secondly, the rationale for Fair Trade to beengaged with communities where child labour is known to exist. Let's be clear-forced childlabour is slavery, and to engage with these communities is risky, but essential to bring aboutchange.