Shopping and Sustainability: Erasmus+ project to raise awareness in young people

WFC Project Manager Samia Kassid and Tina Stridde from Cotton made in Africa talk to students about child rights, child labour and sustainable shopping

If we talk about future generations, we must talk about young people. They are the decision-makers of the future – but what is oftentimes forgotten, they are decision-makers today as well: For most children, teenagers and young adults, the way they dress is an important form of self-expression, and therefore a vital part of their identity. But due to lack of awareness – and, very possibly, lack of funding – affordable clothes are most often the first choice. So how is a young person, who is not familiar with the production chain of the textile industry, and the various forms of exploitation within this chain, able to make sustainable decisions as a consumer?

The Erasmus+ project on sustainability brings students from five European countries together

Young people require education that includes the concept of sustainability. The Julius Leber School in Hamburg is making an exemplary approach in this field. As part of the European Erasmus+ Exchange Programme, secondary school students from Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and Italy come together to work on a project on sustainability: is a project especially for students with a tendency towards absenteeism. During the project, covering a period of two full school terms, students learn and talk about sustainability in nutrition, waste management, and shopping.

The German students decided themselves to enlarge upon sustainability in shopping and textiles. Thus, on 9th of May 2017, WFC Project Manager Rights of Children, Samia Kassid, was invited to speak at the Julius Leber School to the international Erasmus+ student audience about her working field, with a particular focus on child labour. She emphasized that children are human beings with a unique set of rights, which should be respected to grow up healthily – but oftentimes and especially in some so called developing countries, these rights are violated.

Samia Kassid, Senior Project Manager Right of Children, speaking at Julius Leber Schule, Hamburg

Child labour happens considerably often in the textile industry, where the production chain is unusually long, and spread over the continents, why companies aim to keep the costs as low as possible, especially the labour costs. As a result, Ms Kassid explained to the students, already cheap adult workers are replaced by the even cheaper children workers, spending most time of the day working instead of attending school or developing important skills.

Tina Stridde from Cotton made in Africa also was on the panel as a speaker. She introduced the work of CmiA, an initiative of the Aid by Trade Foundation, whose Chairman is WFC Honorary Councillor Dr. Michael Otto. Through training programs, the organisation teaches the cotton farmers about modern, environmentally friendly cultivation methods that help them to establish economically and socially sustainable cotton farming. Ms Stridde made clear why and how consumers behaviour has an impact on creating a sustainable, just world – and that everyone can do good whilst shopping.

Erasmus+ students from Germany, Italy, France, Belgium and Spain attended the event

To raise awareness in young people, events like this are crucial: First-hand information presented by experienced professionals and researchers make the concept of exploitation and sustainability more comprehensible and visible.

The interest these young people from five countries – whose mother tongue is not English – had in this topic, and the number and quality of the questions they asked proved their understanding of this complex subject, and their agency when it comes to sustainability in shopping. A very special thanks to Marion Walsh and all teachers of Julius Leber School who have organised this inspiring and very successful event.


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Miriam Petersen
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