My name is Saajia Bidar and I am a senior at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). This is my second year working on our fair trade campaign. I was introduced to fair trade through my best friend, Chase Manar Spears. Chase and I often expressed our discontent with the shape of our world, especially in regard to our brothers and sisters whose struggles have been swept under the rug. She invited me to attend the Fair Trade Campaigns National Conference in Washington, D.C. in March of 2018.
I don’t mean to be the poster child for all things fair trade, but the conference quite literally changed my life. We spent three days meeting other student advocates, hearing the stories of artisans and producers, and connecting with companies leading the fair trade charge from the front lines. We learned how to become conscious consumers and were educated on the impact of our everyday purchases. The end of the conference brought me an even greater deal of uncertainty; I was equipped with a bounty of information, yet I wasn’t sure what to do with it.
At the conference I connected with Kylie Nealis, Fair Trade Campaigns’ Campus & Community Engagement Manager. Kylie expressed her excitement about me joining the fair trade movement, and to my surprise, mentioned that UCSC was her alma mater. After articulating my lack of direction, she introduced me to Fair Trade Colleges & Universities, which enables students like me to launch grassroots campaign at their own university campus. The Fair Trade Campaigns team is equipped with the tools and resources needed to help students embed fair trade principles and practices into the social and intellectual systems of their campus. In our conversation, Kylie noted that UCSC had not yet launched a campaign and urged me to take on that role. And I did just that.
"It’s important to recognize the small steps that lead toward significant change."
I hope that our campaign inspires students and shows them how even a small change in their daily routine, such as opting for fair trade coffee or tea, can make the greatest impact. I hope that students use the tools from our campaign to make change in their communities back home.
I encourage other students to lead with compassion and patience and to take note of individuality, both within their classmates and their respective communities. There is no generic model for community activism. What works for my community may not apply in yours. Use the strengths already present in your community and uplift students to use their voice for the betterment of the lives of our brothers and sisters around the world. Encourage your peers to check for the fair trade seal when they purchase everyday items such as lip balm, deodorant, and groceries. It doesn’t take much to create awareness and there’s no better place to start than within ourselves.