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Sustainability From School, Vidyashilp Academy, India’s 1st Fairtrade School

by Apparel Resources

01-September-2018  |  8 mins read

Image Courtesy: Fairtrade India

To empower and educate the next generation about challenges and sustainability issues of cotton farmers and garment factory workers, Vidyashilp Academy (VSA) Bangalore has become India’s first Fairtrade School. A Fairtrade School is at the heart of the global movement for change. Through such initiatives, students understand the depth of issues like transparency, ethical business, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship and role played by non-profit organisations. The school sources Fairtrade certified uniforms and promotes sustainable initiatives.

While this is a first school in India, Fairtrade has a huge network of schools all over the world with more than a 1,000 registered Fairtrade Schools in just UK and over 500 Fairtrade Schools in Germany; and now Vidyashilp is the new name added to the Fairtrade family. Fairtrade is targeting at least 50 more such schools in India in the next one year. The environment at the school gives feel and passion for being a responsible person right from the beginning.

The Fairtrade network engages with many farmers and workers all over the world to ensure they have – access to better prices, fair wages, better soil-water-waste management techniques, training on reducing the use of harmful chemicals, and how to deal with climate change. Farmers additionally have access to a Fairtrade Premium for the community and economic development projects.

Four years ago, Fairtrade India launched a Fairtrade Pilot School Programme in India with the idea of teaching young people that howsoever insurmountable a problem might seem, it can be tackled. The purpose was to make the next generation more aware about the farming and power crisis in India. The next generation needs to be told that it is important to empower the people in the food and fashion supply chains. Vidyashilp Academy has been a Fairtrade Pilot School, since 2016 and has been pioneering the Fairtrade School Programme in India. Students understand the concept of Fairtrade through classroom teaching and have participated in many engaging activities over the years.

Image Courtesy: Fairtrade India

Vidyashilp Academy has on various occasions organized slogan writing competitions, drawing competitions, tuck shop to sell Fairtrade certified products, besides other such engaging activities. The school decided to source uniforms through Fairtrade certified supply chains and the T-shirts in these uniforms have the Fairtrade Mark on them, so both the school and the user knows that there is no social and environmental exploitation in the making of the T-shirt in their school uniforms. The farmers in Gujarat from Suminter India Organics who grew cotton for the uniforms, had access to a Fair Price for their produce; the garment factory workers in Mercer Apparels, Tirupur had access to decent working conditions and the students in Bangalore are going to school in Fairtrade uniforms, a very sustainable supply chain.

Now, that the school has completed its commitment of reasonable sourcing from Fair Trade associated farmers and has officially been declared a Fairtrade School, the school celebrated this achievement. There were two-week long activities to commemorate the occasion. A Fairtrade Cotton farmer from Soundarya Farmers Producer Company, Gujarat, Sarvaiya Pravinkumar Nagajibhai, and his family was also a part of these activities. The oldest of his three children Divyaben Pravinbhai has received a scholarship through the Fairtrade premium to pursue her higher education and has gone ahead and topped her district examination. On August 14th and 15th, the ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisaan’ campaign was launched in the school. A Fairtrade meal was prepared on the day of the launch with Fairtrade spices, rice, cashews, and raisins. There was a display of India’s largest Fairtrade and Organic T-shirt, followed by a student-farmer interaction with Pravinbhai in classrooms. A series of videos was launched where Vidyashilp Academy is informing other schools in India about the steps in becoming a Fairtrade School. India’s largest T-shirt has been taken to the school and children are drawing messages to farmers on patches which will be stitched on to this T-shirt.

“The school collaborates with global partners to further improve intercultural awareness and connects students to a diverse and valued culture. The Fairtrade India collaboration is one such pursuit that aims at weaving ethical values in the school programme. Our students have actively contributed to the learning outcomes from this association and carry a heightened sense of awareness to the cause,” said Kiran Pai – Director, Vidyashilp Academy. Kalai Selvi, Head of School, further shared that by joining the Fairtrade movement, students will naturally join the global community of ethical consumers. “They will continue to be the change influencers and contribute towards reducing the impact on social and environmental exploitation,” added Kiran.

Abhishek Jani, CEO, Fairtrade India informed, “The commitment from Vidyashilp Academy to educate students about sustainability and empowering the farmers and the environment through the Fairtrade movement is historic and hugely inspiring. By fulfilling the requirements of becoming a Fairtrade School, VSA is going to create a huge impact on many farmers and workers across the country.” He further added that with the support from the European Union’s Switch Asia Programme, the India chapter looks forward to increasing the reach of the Fairtrade Schools programme in the country and working with more schools across pan-India to mainstream sustainability and create awareness for the 12 goals underlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which talk about sustainable consumption and production.

5 steps to become a Fairtrade School

1. Forming a steering committee which includes teachers, students, and parent representatives.

2. Teaching from the Fairtrade India school kit – A teaching aid which can be easily incorporated in classroom learnings.

3. Conducting a Fairtrade Assembly.

4. Organizing an event during the Fairtrade Week campaign in November to take the awareness of Fairtrade to the community.

5. Making a commitment to Fairtrade farmers through some form of their everyday consumption.