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Roasting Beans for Global Justice

Roasting Beans for Global Justice

by Oxfam | May 17, 2010

Some university students take part-time jobs simply to fund their studies. But for 28-year-old Randalin Ellery, her job at the Planet Bean cafe is about more than earning a few extra dollars. It is about global justice.

Randalin works at roasting fairly traded coffee at the Guelph co-operative. Fair trade became her passion when she began university and started volunteering with Oxfam Canada. With the support of Oxfam, Randalin led a campaign that successfully lobbied the University of Guelph to offer fair trade coffee at its food and drink vendors. `At first they sold it alongside the other coffee, but now almost all the coffee is fair trade. It just goes to show that students prefer fair trade, she says.

She didn’t stop there. She travelled to Peru to research Café Femenino, the women’s co-operative that supplies Planet Bean in Guelph, Ontario. The co-operative is one of the few entirely run by women. Inspired by how the women have experienced greater equality by running their own co-operative, Randalin has chosen to focus her graduate research on Café Femenino.

Many people understand fair trade as simply an economic partnership, Randalin says. But it’s a lot more than that. Providing higher wages to producers is important, but fair trade practices also reinforce other values such as the equal participation of women and sustainable ecological practices. Workers’ voices and concerns are being heard in their own co-operatives and in the greater fair trade agencies as well. According to the United Nations, unfair trade rules deny poor countries $700 billion every year. Changing these rules is a key part of the Millennium Development Goal of global partnership, which promotes an open trading system that is rule-based, predictable and non discriminatory.

As a young leader, Randalin believes that global change happens on our own campus. Randalin’s work promoting fair trade in Canada supports coffee producers in other countries so they can be leaders in their own communities too. She sees power in the small changes that Canadian university students can take now to address global inequality.

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