Yesterday marked 30 years since the chemical factory explosion in the town of Bhopal, India, when thousands of women, children, men and the elderly succumbed to a toxic gas that killed most and maimed hundreds more. Since the disaster the American firm responsible avoided both the compensation to the victims and any clean-up operation because they were bought out by Dow Chemical who refuse to take action on Bhopal.
Because the factory is still rotting into the surrounding environment, toxic chemicals are leaking into the local community’s water, causing pregnant women to give birth to children with deformities and general health problems in the local population. It is shocking that a Western Company has been allowed to kill and maim so many people and continue to maim people 30 years after – this would not be permitted in the UK or the US or any other developed country without serious repercussions – so why have the victims not received the help they deserve in India? Why is there not a huge political and mass public opinion backlash?
Thanks to charities such as the Bhopal Medical Appeal, which provides medical help in India to all those affected, there is hope for Bhopal. Now I want to see hope for humankind when the perpetrators, Dow Chemical, are finally brought to justice and made to pay for the clean-up of the toxic factory that continues to pollute today.
This is a Unicef blog but for today, this blog is for Bhopal.
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I am a big fan of social enterprises, those that benefit other people and support fair trade as well as the bottom line.
I received some combat trousers from Next the other day and was shocked at how appallingly made they were. The stitching was all jagged and frayed and the material was flimsy to say the least, you could almost picture the sweat shop that it came from somewhere in Asia. When you hear on the news that they are making record-breaking profits, you have to wonder about their profit margins.
People Tree is a company that offers fair trade fashion. It is obviously more expensive than Next but the cotton it uses is thicker and softer, the quality vastly superior and their ethical credentials excellent. Their catalogues feature pictures of the people in India who make the clothing and how People Tree are ensuring they get a fair deal and work in good conditions. It is not just marketing spiel, they really do care. However, their designs are just not for me. I have tried to wear a few of their dresses and they just make me feel fat and old – never a good combo. So I tend to stick to their two piece sets as I find these more flattering. I wish they did shoes, as I have yet to find a good fair trade shoe label.
Children’s clothing is slightly better with the range of fair trade brands, with Frugi being my favourite. From time to time Marks and Spencer sell products using Fair trade cotton, but this doesn’t extend across their range.
I think fashion still has a long way to go on ethical trading, which is why I am more comfortable hunting for items in charity shops than flicking through the sale rail of a high street brand.
Kate Middleton has been commended for supporting the British high street but I would like to see her using her profile to raise awareness of fair trade and wear brands that promote the social enterprise business model. She would be doing far more good this way – Baby George should be dressed ethically too.
I am blogging every day for UNICEF – cluck here if you can support the campaign.
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I am always on the look-out for innovative ways to fundraise and toilet twinning is one such initiative. For those who have yet to venture into a toilet that has been ‘twinned’, it is a fundraiser to improve sanitation and hygiene levels in places in India in Africa. The fee you pay to twin your bog with a bog in a developing country helps to improve sanitation levels in that country.
My local pub got me onto the idea (I say local pub but we have choice of 2 so it is best described as the posher one – more a la carte menu than pub grub). We were there on New Years Eve to celebrate Christmas (late as we were in Wales) with my mum and stepdad and we don’t usually go to this pub as it is a tad expensive (around £20 plus a head) but as it was once a year we thought we would indulge a little. For a while we were the only ones in the pub (until the made in chelsea crew rocked up- they looked a bit like those tossers anyway) and we had the undivided attention of the young lady publican and her soon-to-be other half (bit of a shotgun wedding as she is due in April).
When I went for a loo break there I saw a certificate proudly declaring that the toilet had been twinned with a loo in Burundi, complete with a picture of the loo which is basically a corrugated iron cubicle in the bush. Thankfully the picture was of the exterior of the loo.
I checked out their website when I got home (www.toilettwinning.org) and found that the money they raise from twinning goes to help install latrines and a water supply in some of the most deprived areas in Africa and India. You don’t often think about the hazards of not having access to loos but there are many, namely: diseases and illnesses caused by poor hygiene (such as diarrhoea) which can be fatal particularly for children and infants – I remember watching a sport relief report from John Bishop when a 6 year old girl died because of diarrhoea and John watched as her body was wrapped up and taken away while her mother screamed in despair – it was this that motivated John Bishop to do his marathon journey from France to England to raise money for the Sport/ Comic Relief campaign in Africa. Other hazards include girls and women being more susceptible to sexual attacks as they have to squat in public to pee and also snake bites!
So, I looked into the cost of twinning my loo and it costs £60 which is the cost of installing one latrine. Or you can pay £250 to install a whole toilet block for a school. Sixty pounds is a lot for us but when you think about it, its the cost of filling up our car with diesel so I’m sure we can stretch to buying a loo in Burundi or the DR in Africa. My birthday is coming up so I am going to ask my husband if he can buy me the loo….
I am blogging every day for Unicef – a charity that is also working to improve sanitation and hygiene in third world communities and schools. If you are able to support the campaign, please visit my page on the Unicef fundraising site.
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