Movement’s next generation learning through Fairtrade

THE opening day of Fairtrade Fortnight saw links between the Co-operative and Fairtrade Movements strengthened with the official launch of a new, co-operative education project. Young Co-operatives, which...

THE opening day of Fairtrade Fortnight saw links between the Co-operative and Fairtrade Movements strengthened with the official launch of a new, co-operative education project.
Young Co-operatives, which has been piloted in 20 schools across the UK, had its official launch at the House of Commons at an event hosted by Co-operative Party chair Gareth Thomas MP.
The project was originally set up in 2002 by Cleveland Co-operative Development Agency and for the last nine months has been run in partnership with the UK&#039s leading Fairtrade organisation Traidcraft, and the financial support of Co-operative Action. It helps school students aged 13-18 to set up and run their own co-operative businesses selling fairly traded foods and drinks.
Students from three schools involved in the pilot ? Stewarton Academy in Ayrshire, English Martyrs of Hartlepool and Hackney&#039s Clapton Girls Technology College attended the launch, along with leading figures from both the Co-operative and Fairtrade Movements. Visiting tea and cocoa farmers from Tanzania and Belize were also present.
Young Co-operatives is now recruiting schools and youth groups before the new school year in the autumn. Membership costs &#163 50 per academic year and members receive a comprehensive co-ordinators&#039 kit, regular newsletters, invitations to an annual Young Co-operatives Congress, access to local support networks from the Co-operative and Fairtrade Movements and opportunities for teachers and students to seek election to the Young Co-operatives management committee and junior executive.
The first Young Co-operatives Congress is being held this week (Thursday 11th March) with a lively mix of workshops, activities and speakers planned.
One of the speakers is Pauline Green of Co-operatives UK, who told the News: "The long-term prosperity of the Co-operative Movement is in the hands of our young people. The co-operative businesses that these young people are establishing are a reminder to all young people that businesses can be fair and ethical and can represent the views of everyone involved."
Other supporters include the comedian and TV presenter Harry Hill and the actor and writer Tony Robinson.
Mr Robinson said: "Fairtrade and co-operative working are pretty simple concepts. You would have thought that most adults might understand them ? but sadly they don&#039t. It&#039s great that teenagers have started running their own Young Co-operatives. They&#039re an example to us all."
Harriet Lamb of the Fairtrade Foundation describes Young Co-operatives as "one of the most refreshing, innovative ? and most importantly, successful, means of introducing young people to fair trade."
One of the highlights of the launch event came when the young people came together to read a joint message to third world producers, represented by cocoa farmer Justino Peck and tea grower Cecilia Mwambebule.
In it the youngsters contrasted the fairness of the co-operative businesses they were running with the unfairness of world trade: "We run our businesses as co-operatives because we think it&#039s fair. We all have an equal say in how the business is run. We treat each other fairly and with respect.
"Not all things in life are fair ? some things you can&#039t change, but some you can. We want to try and make trade fairer. We want countries to treat each other fairly and with respect ? just like we do in our co-operatives.
"We want to see a fairer, a more equal and a more co-operative world and we think that what we&#039re doing will help to make that world."
To find out more about Young Co-operatives, visit: www.youngcooperatives.org.uk.

Our picture shows? Members of a Young Co-operative based at Clapton Girls Technology College in Hackney with Tanzanian tea farmer Cecilia Mwambebule.

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