Monday, 25 August 2008

Social Inclusion extra

Before the programme
HDA
When in Southampton, I volunteered for Hampshire Deaf Association. Deaf people can be excluded from the rest of society because of problems in communicating. General society makes the assumption that its population can hear, so information tends to be portrayed with this in mind. However, 1 in 7 people living in the UK have at least some degree of hear loss. This has an impact in all walks of life, including school, university, work and in service provision. HDA aims to include deaf and hard of hearing people in the general society using a variety of services, including:
  • Interpreting services,
  • Raising awareness of businesses and employers,
  • Activities for hearing children of deaf parents and/or deaf children of deaf/hearing parents,
  • Services for students - interpretation, notetaking, lipspeaking
  • Training in BSL.
Ribbons Centre & THT
Both of these charities work with people living with HIV and AIDS. In the UK, the prognosis for people living with HIV is good, as thanks to anti retro virals and the accessibility of a good diet, people are now likely to be able live reasonably healthily. However, there are still problems for people living with HIV. People have to live with the stigma the general population has about HIV postive people, both to do with the assumed ways they contracted it and what they can do. THT is campaigning to try and quell this stigma, and the bring about change. The Ribbons Centre in Southampton and THT nationally also provide services for HIV positive people, including counselling and advocacy.



During the programme
Team 69
We are a team of 9 UK and 9 Syrian volunteers. We come from a variety of different backgrounds. Our main languages are Arabic and English. We all have different communication styles. For decisions to be made to include everyone, these 3 things all have to be taken into account. When we're making decisions all of the discussion should be translated so that everyone can understand what it is going on. Even people whose native language is being used in decisions might not feel included in discussions if the more confident members of the group talk amongst themselves. Because of this, most of the time Team 69 operates a system where if someone wants to speak, then they raise their hand and people tend to be allowed to speak in the order their hands went up. This doesn't always work when there are decisions to be made quickly, as sometimes the discussion can go between a handful of people. This is however an exception to the rule, and I feel on the most part we make decisions in a fair and exclusive manner. Occaisionally since coming to Aleppo, a few decisions have been made in Arabic then the decision has been passed on to the UK volunteers in English. This isn't really inclusive as it means the UK volunteers can't take part in the decision making process. However, this makes me wonder if at times we did the same kind of thing in Glasgow, as although the Syrian volunteers are better at English than we are in Arabic, if we talk too fast amongst ourselves then it is difficult for them to understand.
CADs
Some of our CADs has included an element of social inclusion. Physically and mentally disabled are normally excluded from general society because of their disability and because of stigma from society. Through our CADs, we have attempted to include disabled children by playing with them. Other CADs that have had an element of social inclusion have been:
  • The clean up in Govan (which included members of the community who were asylum seekers, a normally socially excluded group),
  • Painting of the mosque's fence (this was with an inter-faith organisation, who includes people from a variety of religions).

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

HIV & AIDS and Poverty and Inequality

HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus




AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome




In the UK, and the rest of the developed world, the prognosis for an HIV positive person is quite good. With the advent of effective Anti Retro Virals (ARVs), someone being diagnosed as being HIV positive now has a good chance of having a normal life span and leading a normal life, side effects from the ARVs and stigma aside and dying with HIV rather than of an AIDS related illness.




This is not the case in the developing world. There, an HIV positive has a greatly reduced life expectancy as they are likely to develop AIDS (where the T-cell level reaches below 200 or a person develops an AIDS related illness) quickly.




The difference isn't only in how individuals suffer from the virus/syndrome, but how many people are infected. Take a look at this top 10 of HIV prevalence:



RankingCountryPrevalence rate (in 15-49 year olds) %
1Swaziland26.1
2Botswana23.9
3Lesotho23.2
4South Africa18.1
5Namibia15.3
6Zimbabwe15.3
7Zambia15.2
8Mozambique12.5
9Malawi11.9
10Kenya7.8


As you can see, all of the top 10 are countries in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA), and for the next part of this topic, I shall attempt to ascertain why this is and what the impact of this is.
As Sub Saharan Africa also contains most of the poorest countries in the world, I was tempted to assume that there was a direct link between these two facts. There are also quite logical reasons as to why this would be the case, as poor people are less likely to be able to afford contraception, less likely to be able afford to go to school to be educated about HIV prevention, and less likely to be healthy enough to not contract the virus when they come into contact with it. However, after some research, I found that this apparently isn't the case. Although when poor people living in SSA come into contact with HIV they are more likely to be susceptible to it, they are also less likely to come into contact with. This is because wealthier people are more likely to move around more and have multiple sex partners. There is apparently evidence to suggest that there is a link between high economic inequality and HIV prevalence (perhaps caused by rich men paying poor women to sleep with them).
Where poverty has the most impact is in the survival rate and provision of care of those with HIV. Poor people in SSA aren't provided for by the state. They can't afford to eat healthily and more often than not the water they have access to is dirty and is likely to make them ill. This means that once a poor person becomes infected with HIV, their immune system is not able to fight the virus and they get sick really quickly. ARVs don't come cheap and there are not many doctors available in most SSA countries, so there is also little care for those with HIV.
Having HIV is likely to impact people's ability to work. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, if they develop full blown AIDS, they are unlikely to be well enough to work. Secondly, if an employer finds out that they are HIV positive they are not likely to employ them, and there are no laws preventing discrimination in the work place to help them.
Most of the people who die of AIDS in SSA are of a productive working age. This is catastrophic for SSA's development. This leaves dependents, both orphans and elderly people behind to fend for themselves. For orphans this means that they are unlikely to be able to go to school because they have to go out to work. This makes it likely that they to will not get the education they need in HIV prevention.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Volunteering

How is volunteering perceived in the UK?

When volunteering is mentioned in the UK, the image that appears in most people's minds tends to look something a bit like this:


Either upper or middle class young people going to developing countries to help out with specific projects. It is true that this is one form of vounteering, and there is a whole industry based on setting up and running these projects for young people. However, this is only a small part of what volunteering is.
What is volunteering?
Volunteering is working for free for anyone who is not a member of your friends or family. This includes both informal and formal volunteering. Formal vounteering tends to be with a specific charity, and can involve a form of code of conduct. Informal volunteering includes activities such as helping a neighbour with their computer or helping out at you local church.

What makes a good volunteer?
A good volunteer has the following qualities:
  • the ability to use their own initiative,
  • flexibility,
  • a willingless to help,
  • enthuiasm,
  • the ability to remain professional even when those around them seem to lack it.

What makes a good volunteer placement?
A good volunteer placement would, ideally, have the following:

  • A clear goal,
  • A reliable work supervisor,
  • Clear tasks, but with room for the volunteer to use their own initiative,
  • Having work to do,
  • Not having to chase up work supervisors every weekend,
  • Specific roles for the volunteers.

Who benefits from volunteering, and why?
There are many people who can benefit from volunteering. The organisations that are supported by volunteers are obviously financially supported as work is done by people who don't require financial reimbursement. Equally though, they benefit because they receive help from people who aren't influenced by money. This can be a blessing and a curse. It can be a blessing because volunteers aren't coming in just because they have to in order to get to paid. They are coming in because they want to. However, this is also a curse because the organisations has to find ways to keep the volunteers enthused in order to encourage them to stay.

Volunteers themselves benefit from volunteering. First and for most, they can game experience more easily than from a job (as getting a job so often depends on having prior experience already, whereas volunteering usually doesn't). A volunteer can also gain confidence and new skills through the work they do. They can also make new friends through volunteering.

Community in general benefits from volunteering because it increases the availability of services that volunteers support.






Monday, 14 July 2008

Sustainibility

Definition: Keeping the work in community going even after we've left.

Work placementIn Glasgow, Mima and I worked for Amina, the Muslim Women's Resource Centre (as featured in Voluntary Sector and Social Inclusion). For them, we helped organise a fundraising event which took place on the 7th June, just before we left Glasgow.

Whilst we were there the organisation of the fundraising event mostly fell to four people, myself, Mima, an Amina volunteer Ghazela and a member of the management committee Sofiiya. Through our time at Amina it became pretty clear that the regular volunteers weren't all that interested in fundraising and preferred to concentrate on either administration or the services Amina provides. These are both vitally important but without fundraising there would have been little money to pay for these services, except for the money received from the government or other sources. Mima and I being there highlighted the need to have dedicated fundraising volunteers in the organisation, so I hope that now we have left they will be successful in recruiting new volunteers so our work can be sustainable. A way Mima and I could help is for us to write about our experiences at Amina and how rewarding it was to organise the fundraising event to encourage others to follow suit.

Community Action Days
In our time in Glasgow Team 69 took part in a record number of CADs, including:
  • litter picking in Govan,
  • clean up by a revier bank,
  • gardening in "the Quad",
  • cleaning up a area of woodland,
  • marshalling the Great Scottish Walk,
  • painting a church hall,
  • painting a mosque's fence.
Each of them had varying degrees of sustainability. The one which I think will prove to be most sustainable is the clean up in Govan. This is because we made up less than half of the number of volunteers present, as there were so many members of the community obviously present. This is largely thanks to the efforts of Dania and Peter who through their work placement got the community to come along. Hopefully the community will continue and set up a regular clean up of the area.
In fact, all of the more sustainable CADs that took place involved members of the community, including the clean up at the river bank which was already a monthly event. A way we could have made CADs more sustainable would have been to encourage the community to take up the torch lit by us and continue the work we've done when interviewed by the press. Also on the days themselves, we could have tried to encourage members of the community to get involved for our future CADs. In future, it may be an idea to more widely publicise the CADs, not just to the team but to the people of Aleppo as well

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector

What is the Voluntary Sector?
The best way to define the voluntary sector is by first defining what it isn't. There are two sectors that most people come into contact with on a regular basis, public and private.

Public sector
The public sector is anything run by the government, either national or local.

Private sector
The private sector is anything that is run by business for commercial gain. Their main focus is on making profit.

The voluntary sector is a third sector which covers anything that doesn't fall into the public or private sectors. They provide the services that would otherwise not be met by either the public or private sector. It includes charities and other Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that aren't focused on making profit. It includes organisations that can't be defined as charities such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace.

What is social inclusion?
Reducing inequalities between disadvantaged groups and the rest of society. This involves opening up oppurtunities who wouldn't have them otherwise and making sure support reaches those who need it the most.

Amina - Muslim Women's Resource Centre
The Muslim Women's Resource Centre is a charity (so as such is part of the voluntary sector) which operates in Scotland. It is based in Dundee and Glasgow but operates country wide. It was set up in 1997 after it was recognised that the specific needs of muslim women were not being met by the public sector in Scotland. It is campaigning to encourage the public sector to meets these needs, but also provides services to the community to meet these needs in the interim. It is as such an example of social inclusion. These services include a helpline, counselling services, PPP (Prevention, Provision and Protection) for domestic violence, and capacity building. For capacity building it runs various courses including arts & crafts and personal development through the Pacific Institute's Steps Programme. Part of the helpline's role is to act as a third party reporting service to encourage muslim women who feel they can't report racist or ismalist abuse to the police directly to report it to someone neutral. The helpline is also there to offer advice, and where necessary to sign post appropiate services for the callers.

As it provides for the needs of muslim women, Amina is able to apply for grants to enable it to keep on running from the Government. This is fine in the interim as it means that muslim women's needs are being met, but in a way it might mean that the government might feel that they don't need to provide services for muslim women directly, as they're funding a charity to do it for them. This is in essence one of the downsides of the existence of the voluntary sector, as the public sector could get complacent. As Amina is campaigning for the publc sector to meet Muslim Women's needs, it is in essence aiming to not exist, as all the services would be provided directly by the state.

What can I do as a global citizen?

I Vicky Heather Syred, of sound body and mind, on the 3rd July 2008 hereby pledge to:

  • Close my Alliance & Leicester and HSBC accounts.
  • Open a Co-Operative Bank account.
  • Transfer my ISA from Kent Reliance to an ethical one next April.
  • Stop shoping at stores like H&M and Primark, but not without telling them the reason why.
  • Start buying my jeans from Marks and Spencer when they have Fairtrade ones in stock.
  • Buy all my other clothes from charity shops or People Tree.
  • Put durability and ethics before price when buying clothes.
  • Accept this might mean buying fewer clothes and having a smaller choice.
  • Recycle more.
  • Only buy Fairtrade tea, coffee and chocolate.
  • Choose Organic and/or Fairtrade food when it is possible.
Signed,





Victoria Heather Syred



3rd July 2008




The things that might prevent me from following this pledge are:

  • Low interest from ethical bank accounts or ISAs.
  • Being unemployed after GX and not being able to afford ethical choices.
  • Low availability of ethical options.
Hopefully though, I'll still be able to see past these and follow my pledge.

Globalisation

There has long been a mix of cultures around the world. This is partly due to invasions from conquering nations and then the trade routes set up within empires. There has also been movement by peaceful settlers and immigrant taking their culture with them. Since the advent of rapid transport and communication however the world has become a lot smaller and the mix of cultures has become a lot greater. It is now possible for people in the UK to hear an accurate account of events happening in Australia within a few minutes despite the two countries being on opposite sides of the world and despite them being 12 time zones adrift. In a typical UK high street is is possible to find Chinese or Japanese noodles, Indian curry, Mexican chili, American burgers and Italian spaghetti. Go into a typical high street store and you will find items made in Turkey, Bangladesh, Hungary or China, with raw materials sourced from Africa.

At the moment, globalisation comes hand in hand with capitalism so as such it is inevitable there would be winners and losers. A definite winner, as is so often the case, is America. There are many American brand names that can be found in nearly every country around the world which easily roll off the tongue, including Starbucks, McDonalds and Coca Cola. Other winners include the consumers in the West who can buy goods made in China and the like very cheaply. They also have a wide range of items from all corners of the world for their perusal. Globalisation also encourage the exchange of ideas, which includes music, art and scientific knowledge.

On the flip side there is a downside to globalisation. The losers include the workers in China and the farmers in Africa who work for below substinence wages. There can be winners and losers in the same country. In the UK, manufacturers go out of business as it becomes increasingly cheaper to make goods overseas. This ties in with social responsibility as consumers have to weigh up the pros and cons of buying goods from their own country or overseas on the basis of price, impact on the workers' lives, the effect of not choosing a particular product and also the environmental impact.

The environmental impact of globalisation generally is huge. All the transport that allows business to be carried out internationally has a massive carbon footprint, what with transporting goods and business people from country to country constantly. The communication that allows different countries to learn from one another also an environmental impact because it is so dependent on electricity whether it be using the TV, the internet or the phone.

Without globalisation however, each community would be stuck in their own little bubbles. This would encourage contempt, ignorance and fear of the unknown. Through globalisation different communities can learn from another. Globalisation generally enriches the world and the people in it. However as with all things in life there is a negative side where people or the world suffer thanks to globalisation. The only way to prevent this from happening though and to undo the damage that has been done by globalisation would be to go back to the stone age where people only moved with their tribe to find food and shelter. All that we can do now is make the best of the situation and hope the positives of globalisation can in time outweigh the negatives.


Outside my Syrian host home...



Some brands literally are everywhere... (pictured, Coca Cola, Nestle, Sunsilk, and the previously unheard of (to me) - Windmill.

Sexual Orientation

I'm going to start off this entry with a minor admission. I'm bisexual. This means I like both men and women, not necessarily equally, and not usually at the same time. What this does not mean is that I'm:
  • greedy,
  • confused,
  • unfaithful,
  • lucky...

or anything else that gets thrown at me whenever I decide to be totally open about my sexuality. The worst thing is that the most bi-phobic remarks I receive are normally from within the gay community. I can never understand why someone who has had to put up with prejudice and discrimination on the basis of their sexuality is quite willing to dish it out to someone else. Believe me, I know at times I do have it easy. When I'm dating a guy I don't have to worry about public displays of affection getting me beaten up or jeered at by random passers by. At no point in my life have I had to stop holding hand with a boyfriend simply because a child happens to be walking towards us, whereas I have done this when I was with a girlfriend. (At this point I hasten to add that I am currently only talking about what it is like in the UK, as I might need to worry about PDAs with men in other countries...)

All of this does not mean I prefer going out with men, far from it in fact, it just means that it's easier for me to go out with them, which can be a pain considering I do normally vastly prefer women.


Right, before this turns into an out and out rant about the gay community's treatment of bisexuals, perhaps I should start looking at the matter in hand as a whole.

I'm probably going to start off with a bit of controversy. Gay and bisexual people have it easy in this country now. That isn't to say that it is completely perfect, and discrimination still occurs, but instutional homophobia is rare. Unless we are talking about the asylum system, but I'll come back to that later. All I'm saying is that thanks to the hard work by countless campaigners over the years, same sex couples now have the right to join in the eyes of the law, adopt and foster children as a couple and are entitled to inherit pensions from one another and become next of kin for one another. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people all over the UK are entitled to live free of discrimination at work and through the provision of goods and services. Of course, this doesn't always happen, but at least the legal right is there.

All around the UK, there are countless perfectly visible centres supporting lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people (the latter isn't mentioned again in this post, but I mentioned in my gender post) The photo below shows quite how many postcards about sexuality one of these centres has on display: There are also pride events in most major cities, including London, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow.

None of this can be said for Syria. The only places gay men get together are cruising grounds infamous for being infested with AIDS and the fact I haven't heard where the lesbians meet up shows quite how visible they are. Homosexuality is illegal in Syria, or at least having sex with someone of the same sex is and the punishment is 3 years imprisonment. So what chance is there that there is going to be laws protecting their rights?

In some countries, such as Nigeria, it is even worse as having sex with someone of the same sex is still punishable by death.

Times when the attitudes towards homosexuals in different countries and here in the UK become undeniably linked is in asylum seeker cases where the claimant cites their sexuality as a reason for not being able to return to their own country. The UK government seemes determined to not accept this as a reaonable claim, even in cases where people's lives have been directly threatened, or the partner has already received the death penalty, like in the case of Mehdi Kazemi, a 19 year old gay Iranian.

The attitude of the UK government seems to be that the best thing for these asylum seekers is "to go back where they came from" and be "more discreet" as if such a thing were possible when you've already been arrested once before and had to flee the country due to this (like in the case of Jojo Jako Yakob, a Syrian claiming asylum in Scotland).

In conclusion, for the main part, I believe that homosexual and bisexual people have a lot to be thankful for when looked at on a global view. There are still problems that need to be addressed, like in the case of the asylum seeker cases. I do wonder however if I would have this attitude if I was a camp looking gay man, who isn't really able to hide his sexuality anywhere he goes. Would I have a different opinion as to how open and accepting this country is?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Gender and Identity

Since the start of the exchange I've been aware of various references to unwritten rules society assigns to each and every one of us according to what sex we are:
  • "Boys only for football."
  • "I'm a boy, I'm meant to pack light" (ignoring the fact the boy next to him had the heaviest case in the team, and me, a girl had the lightest in the team...)
  • "Why don't you [me] wear make up... do something with your hair... pluck your eyebrows..."

In the UK, despite years of feminism and so called equality, women are still paid less than men when comparing like for like jobs. This is partly because women are able to take up to a year off for maternity leave whereas men are only entitled to 2 weeks paternity leave once their partner gives birth. Also in the UK, I've heard countless accounts of mothers being made to feel guilty for choosing to work whilst their kids are still young but I've never heard fathers have the same pressure on them. When dating, I've only been out with one guy who's made an obvious effort with his appearance for the date, whereas as a woman, I'm expected to look good not just on a date but most of the time.

In the UK, at least it is now reasonably socially acceptable for women to decide to choose a career over becoming a mother whereas this isn't the case all over the world. It hasn't always been in the case in the UK even. Before the First World War, the distinction between roles for men and women were very clear (at least within certain classes). The man would go out to work to provide for the family whereas the woman would be expected to stay at home and look after the children. The First World War changed this to a certain extent because so many able bodied men left to fight in the war so women had to step in to fill their positions at work. After the war, there was then a "surplus" of women because so many men had died whilst fighting in the war. These "surplus" of women all had to find jobs to fend for themselves. This and other events in the twentieth century changed the perceived role of women in the UK.

So far, I've been focusing very much on males and females, as society's view on gender is that it is very much a binary concept. Experiences through my life, both from people I've met and how I see myself have made me start to look at gender in a slightly different way.

I feel like I got a pretty genderless upbringing from my parents. That's not to say I was unaware of the difference between boys and girls, but I've only once been aware in my 23 years of either of them telling me how I should act according to what sex I am. They treated my brothers and I as three individuals, not as two boys and a girl. I haven't felt this in society in general, and I am often made to feel a bit of an oddity because I am bombarded by all these images of what it is to be female from adverts, magazines and other media, and sometimes by my friends (although not intentionally on their part).

During the course of my life I have met both trans and intersex people. Trans and transgender are umbrella terms which can include:

  • transsexual people (those who consistently self-identify as the sex and/or gender opposite to what they were labelled at birth, seek to transition to live as their self-identified gender and may take hormones or have surgery to change some of their physical sex characteristics);
  • androgyne or gender queer people (those who self-identify as having a non-binary gender and see themselves as neither simply a man nor simply a woman);
  • cross-dressing or transvestite people (those who dress occasionally or regularly like the opposite gender but are otherwise happy with the sex and/or gender they were labeled at birth).

Intersex people (previously also called hermaphrodites) are those who are born with external genitals, internal reproductive systems or chromosomes that vary from what is considered to be clearly physically male or female. There are many different ways in which someone can be intersex. One example is Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome where people who are genetically male (XY chromosomes) have bodies which are unresponsive to testosterone and are therefore born with female external genitals and so are raised as girls. They may often only find out they are intersex when they are teenagers. Another example is Klinefelter Syndrome were people have XXY chromosomes instead of having either XX or XY chromosomes. Some intersex people self-identify simply as men or as women despite their physical sex being in-between male and female but others resent being made to live as either men or women and would rather have their intersex status legally recognised. [thanks to JM and AS for your help with the terminology]

The existence of intersex, and trans people to me somewhat questions the binary and static view of gender that society has. In exploring my own view on gender I find myself stuck between two representations. I don't truly believe that someone's sex or gender should define how they act. But I also can't deny that there are certain characteristics that are apparently inherently male or female. So I'm stuck between these two representations of gender:




or:




I think both representations have their merits but neither are perfect. How would I define myself within these two representations? In the first representation I'd fall within the female circle, as I don't have any problem with that label, but that wouldn't mean I'd have to act totally "female". I myself identify as a woman, because that's what I am physically, but there are so many aspects of apparently being "female" that I neither possess or even identify with. So, if I was to place myself on the spectrum in the second representation, I'd probably be here:

If all of society accepted either of these representations of gender would so many trans people still need to go through intrusive surgery in order for them to realise their true gender?

An aside...
Since coming to Aleppo...
I've noticed a complete difference in how men and women are treated. In my host family, my host mother stays at home all day cooking and cleaning. When my host dad comes home he expects everything to be done by his wife, to the point where he will not get water out of the fridge for himself and pour himself a glass. He even doesn't get rid of the water on the bathroom floor after he has washed his feet when he comes in at night. My host brothers are the same. My little host brother sits watching the TV whilst my host sister and I are cleaning the flat. Also, when he comes home at close to midnight he seems to think it's OK to sit and order his mum about (once shouting ateeny akil 10 times). We barely ever see my big host brother but when we do he's making some demand of his host mother or other.

Also in Aleppo...
I've always felt a bit weird because I don't make that much effort with how I look, but it's even more pronounced here. Pretty much every woman I see (except for my host mother) is immaculately dressed and made up. When going to a party, my host sister made a comment about how I was just in jeans and T-shirt (or something along those lines, it was in Arabic), and at the time I just lost it. Why just because I'm a girl should I be expected to spend hours getting ready making myself "look nice". It's fine if people decide they want to do that, but why is it such an issue if someone chooses not to?

At work...
Boys and girls do not integrate. At all. Whenever Dania and I pick up a new group of kids, they always divide along gender lines. We have to fight to get them to mingle with one another. I don't think it's the boys as such, it seems to be more the girls clinging together. It's understandable though if they are brought up to think that they should be seperate from boys. To me it seems such a weird attitude, as boys not being able to spend time socially with girls means that they end up just objectifying them, which cannot be seen as a good thing.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Social Responsibility

Hey, this is my first attempt at my learning journal, so please be kind.



To begin with, I want to look at social responsibility. Is it it the responsibility of the company, or is it the responsibilty of us, the consumer?



Whilst on the exchange, I've had the same recurring conversation about Primark. It's cheap, we know it's cheap, which leads us to the inevitable conclusion that it sources it's clothes from sweatshops. In fact, apparently it's been named the least ethical company (http://tinyurl.com/5brhxc). And yet, other volunteers on the programme and I still shop there. What's worse, I didn't even start shopping in Primark regularly until I knew I was coming on this exchange. Is this really a great reflection on people apparently becoming active global citizens? Yes, we don't have a great deal of money, but is this really an acceptable reason?



Before I perform a complete character assination of Primark and their consumers, are they really alone in their social irresponsibility? Just a quick glance at the labels in the clothes from most of the high street stores reveals clothes sourced from Bangledesh, Hungary, Turkey, and the now favourite China. How is a girl to know where to get clothes which hasn't involved someone working in cramped, sweaty working conditions? In the past, I have tried to research the working conditions of the countries that the clothes are sourced from, but most of the time I have had to either swallow my niggling ethics and buy the garment regardless, or just go without. Unfortunately due to the fact I'll be in Syria for the boiling hot summer, I've had to lean towards the former option.
One solution to all this would to only ever buy clothes from People Tree. This isn't without its pitfalls however, as a T-shirt is likely to set me back £35, a handsome sum of money for someone struggling on £15 a week...