Whether you’re buying clothing, gifts, or every-day products, most items you buy are made in countries like China, India, or Mexico these days. In fact, it may look as if manufacturing in the United States is vanishing, but, according a New York Times article in 2009, “the United States remains by far the world’s leading manufacturer by value of goods produced. It is moving upscale…becoming more efficient. For every $1 of value produced in China factories, the U.S. generates $2.50.” Because American business owners and their employees also profit by selling inexpensive foreign-made products, it appears this trend is here to stay. With so much of your money going over-seas, it’s important to know where your money goes and how it is spent.
Foreign Factory Worker, Sweatshop Owner, or American Retailer: Where Does Your Money Go?
It’s easy to imagine some poor children slaving away in a sweatshop in India, frantically sewing the hem in your new jacket in place, but because of recent discoveries, measures have been taken to uncover and eliminate this practice. In 2006, for example, after receiving a tape of children working in a New Delhi, India, sweatshop, The Gap, Inc., “ceased business with 23 factories due to code violations” in India. They now have people located around the world “whose job is to ensure compliance” with their Code of Vendor Conduct.
Today your clothes are most likely manufactured in a modern factory, like Morinda International Co., Ltd, in Hong Kong, China, that supplies knitwear to many American retailers. They are easy to locate online, complete with photos of factory workers laboring in proper conditions. Because American retailers are able to purchase clothes or products at a low cost, they can mark up the price and make a profit for their company and its workers. The retailer profits further when they offer a store credit card to consumers, profiting on interest rates and other fees.
So, whether your money goes to a foreign factory worker or an American retail worker, you can’t argue that it isn’t money well spent, but what if you want to use your purchase to help an impoverished person with the very basic of living essentials?
How To Buy Products That Directly Help The Poor
Women Thrive Worldwide is the leading non-profit organization that advocates for policies that foster economic opportunity for women living in poverty. The organization focuses on helping women because “whether self-employed or earning wages, working women help their households escape poverty.” On their web site, www.womenthrive.org, there is a list of places where you can order merchandise that was made by impoverished women, many items made by hand, from all over the world, including the U.S. These include, World of Good.com by ebay, which sells items like silk pillows from India, The Women’s Peace Collection, selling things such as baskets made by weavers from Northern Darfur, and FOAR.US selling American-made t-shirts with designs that promote world-wide human rights.
Macy’s also has their Rwanda Path to Peace program, where you can buy beautiful hand-woven baskets on the Macy’s web site, and the profit is literally changing the lives of small villages in Rwanda by making it so they can afford purified water and mosquito nets. There are more programs out there, like Beads for Life, that you will no doubt come across as you research.
These days, when every penny counts, buying products or holiday gifts that directly help provide basic living essentials to the world’s most impoverished people, is one way to make a big difference with a small amount of money. Items coming from the places listed above, come with cards telling about the program and the people that the purchase helps. Not only do you have a beautifully hand-crafted gift to keep or give away, you have a wonderful story to go with it, and the knowledge of the great joy it brings to the person who receives it as well as the person who made it.
The New York Times.com. “Is Anything Made in The U.S. Anymore? You’d Be Surprised.”
Women Thrive Worldwide.org. “Who We Are: A Catalyst For Transformation And Change.”
Copyright Kathleen Pfeiffer. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.