As a casual fashion blogger, I admit I am a bit of a shopaholic. For me, buying clothes is exciting and fun. Especially if the dress I've been eyeing off has just been reduced to half price! I just can't wait to get home and try my new dress on with the pair of shoes I've been waiting to wear, or my old denim jacket.
As Christians, we know a love of material items detracts from a life focused on serving and praising God, but another reason God would disapprove of our materialistic lifestyle is the consequences for those involved in providing us with our rich and glamorous lifestyle.
The reality of the sweatshop
Until recently I was oblivious to the effects my bargain-hunting has on those involved in the production of my clothing. Of course I knew much of my clothing was made in China, India and other Asian countries where labour is cheaper compared to Australia. But what I hadn't realised was the appalling conditions these people were forced to work in for a pay check that wouldn't even feed their family.
While reading other fashion blogs as inspiration for my own, I came across a blog devoted to ethical fashion. There I found a link to a Norwegian reality show, 'Sweatshop Deadly Fashion', where fashion bloggers worked in a Cambodian sweatshop for a month. One of the bloggers, when interviewed about her experience summed up the situation in these words:
"And the truth is that we are rich, because they are poor."
However, it's not only the unfair wages that make these factories a terrible place to work in. In developing countries, an estimated 250 million children ages 5 to 14 are forced to work. On top of this, the long hours, lack of workers benefits, unhygienic conditions and fear of physical and sexual abuse make these factories appalling places to workâstripping their workers of basic human rights.
The same week I watched an episode of this reality show I heard the injustice of sweatshops mentioned in a sermon at my local church. It was then I knew I couldn't ignore this issue, God wanted me to pay attention to my consumer habits and he wanted me to change.
Why Christians should care
This is an important issue for Christians to contemplate. The consumption of such products produced in poor conditions reveals just how self-serving our society has become. We are willing to pass on the consequence of spending a few more dollars, to people who are struggling to make ends meet and find basic necessitiesâsuch as food. It is a problem that is swept under the carpet in our western society, and because it's not happening our own country the effects of such purchases don't seem real.
As Christians, we are called to be the light in the world. God calls us to uplift the oppressed and bring justice to those who are powerless. Psalm 82 says, "Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute..." We are able to initiate change and God calls us to stand against this mistreatment: "...Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people." Micah chapter 6, verse 8 speaks of God's desire for his followers to be people of justice: "... this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."
How can we become more aware of the effects of the products we consume?
A few ways I've changed my shopping habits include doing some research on my favourite brands to find out where their clothing, or other products, are sourced. There are many websites that flag certain companies for their unethical use of sweatshops, some of which I've found to be H&M, Nike, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters.
Another way you can be certain you are not supporting slave labour is by purchasing items from your local market. You can be certain the money is supporting the artists and designers in your local community. There are often swap markets in major cities that I've become a fan of and promote on my blog.
Raising awareness of the issue is also another great way to reduce impact on these workers. I think there are many people in our society who are simply unaware of the issue and would be willing to change if only they knew.
Kelly Bingham is a University student with a love of animals amongst other things and is studying a Bachelor of Veterinary Science. She lives on campus and loves to socialise and get with the other University students and the elders at her church near university and at home. In her free time she likes sewing, reading, running by the beach and taking photos for her own fashion blog.
Kelly Bingham's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/kelly-bingham.html