Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Fairtrade Fortnight 2020: The Way to Sustainable Chocoholism

Have you ever wondered what our life would be like without chocolate? It is hard to imagine such a scenario when you consider how many of today’s products either consist of or contain the beloved food. For Ireland, this would mean an especially great deal. After all, according to Fairtrade figures, Irish people are the third-largest chocolate consumers in the World. Only surpassed by Austria and Switzerland, the average person in Ireland ate about 17 pounds of chocolate in 2017.


While chocolate is generally associated with feeling good, there is a side to it that speaks a different truth. The difficulties that many cocoa farmers have to face to produce our chocolate have been repeatedly called out over the last few decades. Hazardous working conditions, exploitation and oppression, a lack of health care and even child labour define the daily lives of thousands of workers and their families. Even though many people are aware of the problem, it often seems difficult to actually do something about it as an individual.


Fairtrade Fortnight, a campaign organised by the Fairtrade Foundation, aims to raise awareness of the conditions in which many people in developing countries work to produce our food. For two weeks each year, hundreds of individuals, companies, and groups across Ireland come together to tell others about farmers’ and workers’ stories. In doing so, they want to demonstrate the positive impact of Fairtrade and hope to encourage people to buy more goods made to Fairtrade standards. This year’s Fairtrade Fortnight’s focus is on – as you might have guessed – chocolate. Particular attention will be paid to the women farmers who supply companies with cocoa, seeing that women often make only little profit from the food they grow compared to men. 


The campaign takes place from February 24th to March 8th and features a large number of guest speakers, such as Arjen Boekhold and Nicola Matthews from the Netherlands. Their chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely pursues the mission to make chocolate completely slave-free and create fair conditions for all cocoa farmers. At the event’s opening night in Dublin, Boekhold spoke amongst other things about inequality in the chocolate industry, pointing out the power of the few multinational companies. “How can we talk about a fair economy or a free economy where you can negotiate prices? We have, one the one hand, two and a half million farmers and they have to negotiate with only two companies” Boekhold explained. The chocolate bar also has a unique design. Divided into parts of different sizes rather than even squares, the composition is meant to reflect the inequality between those who produce the chocolate and those who eventually profit from it. Boekhold stated his belief in Fairtrade saying, “I think Fairtrade is one of the few initiatives which really try to strengthen the position of farmers and make cooperatives work […] At this moment, around 6 to 7% of all cocoa worldwide is sold under Fairtrade terms. So that is a minority. But you see an impact, you see change.”


Allison Roberts, founder of the chocolate company Exploding Tree and one of the three bean-to-bar chocolate producers in Ireland, is a speaker at Fairtrade Fortnight as well. Located in Cork, her company handcrafts chocolate bars with 100% Fairtrade cocoa and coconut sugar bought directly from farming cooperatives like Kuapa Kokoo in Ghana. Running only a small company, Roberts says she feels freer to experiment with her chocolate and likes to create new flavours that don’t necessarily speak to the mainstream: Salt & Seaweed, Goats’ Milk, Dark Orange or 100% Cocoa are just some of them. And did you know that her company produces the only artisan milk chocolate bar made with Irish milk?  


It’s encouraging to see that progress has already been made. According to Fairtrade International, cocoa was the fastest-growing Fairtrade product category in 2017 with revenue rising by 57% in volume, and growth still continuing in 2018. But what is it that makes Fairtrade products so special? Why are they different from others and how does the label work?  


Fairtrade can be described as a trading partnership with the objective to promote greater justice in international trade. It serves as a certification scheme that ensures socially and economically fair production standards for goods from developing countries, such as chocolate, coffee, tea, cotton, fruits, sugar and also gold. Since these products are high in demand and consumed all around the world, a key mission is to make their production as sustainable as possible. International fair trade networks like Fairtrade International or World Fair Trade Organization have defined standards regarding workers’ rights, fair labour practices and environmental responsibility that organisations are required to follow in order to be labelled ‘Fairtrade’. 


First of all, farmers and workers must be paid a minimum price for their products, which guarantees them a stable income. FLOCERT, the audit and certification body for Fairtrade standards, regularly checks that this is implemented. In such a way, workers are given a safety net as they are protected from exploitation and can use income to save money for the future. Fairtrade farmers and workers also receive the Fairtrade Premium, an additional sum of money that goes to a communal fund of their choice. This fund helps workers improve their social, economic or environmental conditions through investment in things like better infrastructure, their children’s education or drinking water supplies. Another important aspect of Fairtrade is sustainable production, which involves farms and plantations avoiding pesticides and fungicides since these often cause great damage to people, wildlife and natural resources. If it’s impossible to circumvent toxicants, their usage has to be reduced to a minimum and resources like soil and water need to be kept clean. Additionally, all employees who might get in contact with the substances are required to wear protective clothing. But that’s not everything that Fairtrade is invested in. Other important issues that are being dealt with include child labour, climate change and gender inequality.


All in all, buying Fairtrade chocolate may not be the solution to every problem in the trading industry but it’s a good place to start and it proves that it’s not hard to make a positive impact, even if it’s small. As one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, Ireland has the chance to go ahead and make sure that Fairtrade products will be even more widespread and consumed in the future.



Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash



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7 Common Myths About Migration

Studying migration makes you face a lot of assumptions that you have about the scary and controversial topic that it is. Migration might just be one of the most misunderstood areas of life, governance, and public policy. In this article, we lay out some of the most common myths about the topic, and bust them for you.

Uyghurs Interned in Chinese Camps at Higher Risk of Covid-19

The Uyghurs in the northwestern region of China have undergone continuous and increasingly violent repression from the ruling Communist Party. Millions of them are currently imprisoned in “re-education camps” and aren’t given any protection from the novel coronavirus.

The Intersection of Human Rights And Covid-19 Restrictions in Europe

The outbreak of the coronavirus requires increased involvement by individual governments to protect their populations and ensure procedures are in place to help the most vulnerable. But what happens when governments overextend their executive power during a state of emergency?

Conversations from Calais: The Poster Project Bringing Humanity Back Into the Refugee Crisis

In October 2016, bulldozers came into the refugee camp known as the Calais Jungle and tore apart the shelters that thousands of migrants had made their homes. Although it has been more than three years since the official eviction, it’s estimated that there are still almost 1,500 migrants living in the forests near Calais and Dunkirk, with around 200 of those being unaccompanied minors.

Asylum Seekers host Feminist Conference for International Women’s Day

On the 7th of March 2020, the organisation ‘Abolish Direct Provision’ hosted the first Asylum Seekers Feminist Conference, with the aim of uniting and empowering women in Direct Provision. The event, held in DCU, was attended by asylum seekers from Direct Provision centres all around the country.

FGM: An Ever-Lasting Fight?

FGM is the perfect example of the inequality many women and girls still have to suffer in today’s world. It stands for Female Genital Mutilation. The procedure entails the cutting and damaging of the female genitals and is also known as female circumcision. Although there haven’t been many cases of FGM in Ireland, it is still an issue here.

The Legacy of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona

The Legacy of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona

After beating off stiff competition to become the host city for the Summer Olympic Games in 1992, Barcelona, the capital of the Catalonia region of Spain and the country’s second-largest city, took on the challenge to represent Spain on an international stage. A major redevelopment of Barcelona’s infrastructure and landscape began, the results of which have significantly contributed to what Barcelona is today: a famously vibrant epicentre of culture in Europe as well as a world-renowned tourist destination.


As a consequence of building and design efforts targeted at the Olympic games, several purpose-built architecturally striking venues popped up across Barcelona city in the early 1990s, transforming the city’s skyline. Examples of such structures include the Palau Municipal d’Esports; Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys; Velòdrom Municipal d’Horta and Palau Sant Jordi. Introducing the initiative as a citywide developmental plan, the Spanish government aimed to pacify fears that the transformation would impinge upon Barcelona’s natural landscape features, such as its distinctively shaped mountains set against a vast shoreline. The creation of two miles of beachfront across Barcelona’s coastline using hundreds of tonnes of imported sand was a unique feature of the development, which proved a resounding success in attracting tourism to the city to this day. 


The surge in tourist numbers to Barcelona after the 1992 Olympic Games made excellent use of the planned upgrade in transport systems. Efforts to improve transport systems in Barcelona during this time have enabled the city to become a more accessible location in Europe. The El Prat de Llobregat airport benefitted from expansion as part of the major development, with the addition of new terminals, a jetway and a control tower. The upgrading of the road network in the region was achieved at this time with significant government planning and investment in rail and roads networks, producing stronger transport links in Barcelona with the addition of the ring roads, for example, the Rondas and the opening of its first high-speed rail network, the Alta Velocidad Española. As a relatively new member of the European Union, having joined in 1986, Spain seized the opportunity to showcase Barcelona’s potential, which led to the improvement of the Spanish economy by sustaining increased investment across all sectors.


A further but perhaps less obvious aspect of the major redevelopment of Barcelona for the Olympic Games was the incorporation of an accessibility initiative in Barcelona’s physical environment. Prior to the Olympic Games, Barcelona was not easily accessible for people with disabilities, who may require that little bit of extra thought in the design of transport and infrastructure. Merche Barreneche, Director of Barcelona’s Municipal Institute of People with Disability in 1992, said that “it costs the same to build something new that is accessible as something that is not. We must debunk the myth that it is more expensive.” The design of transport that incorporated universal accessibility in Barcelona was highly commended in establishing an early example of how accessibility can be achieved in urban planning. These features of design can be found all over Barcelona today, in wheelchair access for people with physical disabilities and assistive technology for people with audio or visual disabilities accessing all modes of transport, including in the airport and on buses, trains and trams to name a few.


The legacy of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona transformed the city’s transport network providing to this day an exemplary demonstration of how a region can invest in its infrastructure and attract worldwide tourism and investment. Barcelona was an inspiring example that contributed to the Olympic Games Knowledge Management programme that was set up in 2000. This programme is an important collaboration for the Olympic Games future success, whereby information gathered from past events support the improvement of planning for future chosen host cities of the Olympics. The future sustainability of the present infrastructure in the city will be put to the test again as Barcelona looks forward to hosting the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.




Photo by Alfons Taekema on Unsplash



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New Emojis to Highlight Diversity

Emojis play an important role in digital communication, allowing us to express our emotions and convey meaning through cute little symbols. However, our ability to communicate is limited by the pictures and symbols on offer, and so emojis can make a big difference!

An Interview with OurTable: “It All Comes Down to Integration”

STAND’s Cedric speaks to Ellie Kisyombe from Our TABLE Dublin about the history of Direct Provision in Ireland, changes to the system and the role of ‘OurTable’. 

The Challenges of Coming Out Later in Life

Ireland has experienced the AIDS epidemic, witnessed the Fairview Park murders and has seen same-sex marriage passed into law by popular vote. While these historical events have brought the idea of the existence of LGBT people into everyday conversation, are the resources out there benefitting all members of the community?

STAND Student Podcast Episode 6: The Gender Recognition Act review – Why were some people left behind?

In November last year the Gender Recognition Act 2015 went through a review which left some groups out – meaning certain groups won’t be able to have their preferred gender recognised by law.

Lack of Diversity Overshadows Another Award Season

For the last few years, award ceremonies have come under a huge amount of scrutiny for a lack of diversity in the talent which they choose to celebrate. Heading into a new decade it felt tempting to think that those behind some of the most prestigious awards in entertainment may have started to heed this calls for inclusion. Unfortunately, as the list of nominations came rolling in over the last month, we soon learnt that this was not going to be the case.

10000 students working towards a more equal future

One person alone might feel as though they can’t make a change, but what happens when 10000 third-level students come together to take one small action each for a better world? This is what STAND, a Suas Educational Development initiative, and the Unions of Students in Ireland (USI) are trying to encourage by partnering on a new platform called 10000students.ie.

Deliver us from blasphemy

Deliver us from blasphemy

“Jesus Christ,” “Christ almighty,” “Christ on a bike and Mary on the handle bars.”

These holy swears seem like the most benign to use amongst the variety of profanity at our disposal. However, if you were to say or publish such “blasphemes’’ in Ireland today, you could end up in court.

What is Blasphemy?
Blasphemy is the act of showing a lack of reverence to a deity. Article 40.6.1 of the Irish Constitution currently states: “The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.” The vagueness around what defines a blasphemous offence leaves people open to persecution and many see the legislation as an attack on free speech.

“It fundamentally offends the principle of freedom of speech, promotes disrespect for our laws and damages our international reputation,” said Róisín Shortall, Social Democrats TD.

Why are we talking about it now?
The Irish government called for a referendum to take place this year on whether or not to remove the blasphemy laws from the constitution. Laws against blasphemy have existed in Ireland since the 1800s, though these applied to Christianity only. Ex-Taoiseach Enda Kenny decided to be more inclusive on the matter and introduced legislation under the 2009 Defamation Act that prohibits blasphemy against all religions.

Occasions where people faced prosecution and charges for blasphemy offences in Ireland are rare, yet they happen. Conway vs. Independent Newspapers was a particular case, when John Conway tried to prosecute three national publications because of content they printed during the 1995 Divorce Referendum which he believed was blasphemous against Catholicism. The case was dismissed.

Is Ireland the only country with these laws?
Ireland brought in its renewed blasphemy laws the same year Asia Bibi was accused of committing a blasphemous offence in Pakistan. Bibi is now serving her 9th year in incarceration on a suspended death sentence. Pakistan is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which cites Ireland’s blasphemy legislation as the most desirable.

Sixty-nine countries have some form of Blasphemy laws, though Ireland is the only ‘western’ country to introduce laws in the 21st century:



Countries with blasphemy laws, from most to least severe.
Iran 1.
Pakistan 2.
Yemen 3.
Somalis 4.
Qatar 5.
Egypt 6.
Italy 7.
Algeria 8.
Comoros 9.
Libya 10.
Saudi Arabia 11.
Bahrain 12.
Afghanistan 13.
Liechtenstein 14.
UAE 15.
Greece 16.
Jordan 17.
Thailand 18.
Andorra 19.
Oman 20.
Indonesia 21.
Suriname 22.
Papa New Guinea 23.
Morocco 24.
Sudan 25.
Antigua 26.
Kazakhstan 27.
Sri Lanka 28.
Zimbabwe 29.
Russia 30.
Kuwait 31.
Iraq 32.
Austria 33.
San Marino 34.
Ethiopia 35.
Lebanon 36.
Montenegro 37.
Finland 38.
Germany 39.
India 40.
Rwanda 41.
Cyprus 42.
Malaysia 43.
St. Vincent 44.
Singapore 45.
Zambia 46.
Brunei 47.
Bangladesh 48.
Tanzania 49.
Mauritius 50.
Israel 51.
Turkey 52.
New Zealand 53.
Syria 54.
South Sudan 55.
Eritrea 56.
Nigeria 57.
Poland 58.
Switzerland 59.
Tunisia 60.
Canada 61.
Brazil 62.
Vanuatu 63.
Grenada 64.
St. Lucia 65.
Guyana 66.
Philippines 67.
Spain 68.


*According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

Decolonising education

Decolonising education

Universities have long been seen as places of open discourse, championing the pursuit of knowledge above all else. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that college campuses have been the incubators for one of the most fascinating – and successful – academic movements of recent years: the campaign for the decolonisation of knowledge.

Simply put, the decolonisation movement aims to address the overwhelming lack of discussion around the impacts of colonialism in universities around the world. While their aims are varied and nuanced, two of the main goals championed by students and academics alike include the removal of monuments or institutional totems celebrating links to imperialism and racism, as well as re-evaluating the Euro-centric bias of many university departments.

The need for decolonisation
While to some, the arguments for decolonisation may seem nebulous and abstract, outdated curricula and colonial erasure can have real consequences. Research conducted in 2014 found that white British students were 16 per cent more likely than students of colour to graduate with a first or 2:1 degree. In analysing such attainment gaps through interviews with BME students, Britain’s Higher Education Academy found overwhelming evidence that universities were not doing enough to help students integrate during their higher education experience. Further research has found that a third of students feel that their educational environment leaves no room for their personal perspective, with some respondents explicitly citing the Euro-centric content of their reading lists.

Of course, there are many factors which contribute to attainment gaps and educational disadvantage, but the evidence suggests that decolonisation of campuses could at least go some way towards reducing these disparities.

Origins of the movement
Many associate the decolonisation movement specifically with African universities, after all, the University of Cape Town saw the inception of the original Rhodes Must Fall movement. This campaign, which sparked myriad protests throughout South Africa, saw students work towards the removal of a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes. Even now, African universities seem to lead the way in diverse education, with the recently opened African Leadership College in Mauritius building its social sciences curriculum entirely around a platform of decolonisation.

But the movement is by no means limited to Africa. In the UK, students have challenged their lecturers to engage with the colonial past their institutions were built upon. Oxford famously had its own Rhodes Must Fall protests, and in Cambridge, efforts are being made to include postcolonial analysis in the teaching of sciences,and classics.

Outside of Oxbridge, The National Union of Students’ Liberate My Curriculum movement has garnered the support of universities throughout the UK, from Reading and Brighton Universities to LSE. Edinburgh University, meanwhile, has committed itself to encouraging an attitude of colonial interrogation throughout its teaching.

Wake-up call
Further movements, such as the Reclaim Harvard Law Campaign or the Malaysian Multiversity Group, which organises regular conferences to discuss decolonisation and the commodification of knowledge, show that the decolonisation campaign is quickly becoming an international movement.

As campuses become increasingly commercialised, and issues such as access to education continue, the decolonisation movement acts as a welcome wake-up call, reminding us of the history of interrogation, analysis and intellectual exploration upon which universities pride themselves.


Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Human Rights Injustices: Women in Saudi Arabia

Human Rights Injustices: Women in Saudi Arabia

In the fifth instalment in our human rights series, Lynn Rickard looks at women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

In 2018 we celebrate 100 years since Irish women were awarded the right to vote. In recognising our progress as a nation, we must also recognise nations who are not afforded the same women’s rights.

In today’s instalment we take a look at Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region; focusing in on Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia, how far they have come and how far they have left to endure.

Though women in Saudi Arabia recently won the right to drive, according to Amnesty International gender based discrimination remains prominent across the MENA region “notably in matters of marriage and divorce, inheritance and child custody”. As it stands, women in Saudi Arabia require a male guardian’s consent in order to travel abroad, obtain a passport or marry. Amnesty International notes that some women experiencing “gender based violence” are also forced into early marriage.

The Amnesty International Report 2011 noted the case of a 12-year-old girl whose father had forcibly married her to an 80-year-old man for money. Amnesty says local human rights activists highlighted the case and resulted in the girl obtaining a divorce in February 2012.

Limited opportunities
A 2010 Report by Freedom House explains that gender inequality is built into Saudi Arabia’s governmental and social structures, and is “integral to the country’s state supported interpretation of Islam, which is derived from a literal reading of the Koran and Sunna”. As a result work opportunities for women remain limited with women being employed in single-sex institutions such as education or health care.

Although discrimination against women and girls in Saudi Arabia is prevalent slight changes “in accordance with Islamic law standards” provide a beacon of hope for all women and girls within this region. In a report, Saudi Arabia’s Education Ministry announced in July a change in Saudi girls’ public schools.  The announcement outlined that from the beginning of fall 2017 certain schools will offer a physical education program during their school term. However, it is not known whether the girls have to get parental permission to enrol.

It may seem that Saudi women and girls’ rights are improving ever so slightly but radical results are yet to be observed as heavy gender based and religious restrictions prevail.


Photo by Majid Korang beheshti on Unsplash

Suas CEO John Logue gives us an update on the now dual brand of Suas and Stand

Suas CEO John Logue gives us an update on the now dual brand of Suas and Stand

CEO of Suas Educational Development John Logue talks us through Suas’s relaunch into the dual brand Suas and Stand. Suas is our branch focused on children’s literacy, with Stand focusing on engaging young people and students in volunteering, internships, innovation, courses and our new website, Stand News.

Michael defied the odds. At age 8, he was considered a poor reader and struggled in class. We realised
he was finding it hard to concentrate on the books available in school. Knowing he loved comics,
Michael’s reading mentor suggested they try the first few pages of ‘Percy Jackson, The Lightening Thief’. The following week, Michael had finished all 377 pages – something that would continue every week.

When Lucy and Emma felt compelled to take action for refugee rights, we were there to help. To address the isolation and exclusion faced by those living in Direct Provision centres in Dublin, they developed their idea – Connect More Dublin. The project raises awareness of the Direct Provision system. Their hope for the future of Connect More Dublin is to introduce a buddy system that will encourage greater integration between asylum seekers and others in Dublin.

These stories could come from two very distinct organisations – one supporting children’s literacy, the
other enabling changemakers to take action. Yet, both represent stories of progress from one
organisation – Suas Educational Development. This dual focus is a core part of what makes Suas a
unique organisation on the NGO landscape in Ireland. Yet, it poses a challenge when trying to tell our
story to those unfamiliar with our work.

The health and well-being of any organisation is rooted in a collective understanding of why it exists,
who it serves and how it helps them. This is particularly true in the NGO sector. Clarity about these
fundamental distinctions provide the foundation for recruiting volunteers, engaging donors and
meaningful strategic planning. Most importantly, clarity of mission enables key stakeholders and
advocates to tell the organisation’s story to the world.

Today, I want to begin the process of re-telling our story. From today, our work on children’s literacy
and global citizenship will take place under two distinct brands – Suas and STAND. We think these
changes will bring much more clarity to our work and enable us to increase our impact over the months
and years ahead.

These changes also allow us to make a really exciting leap forward in our work on global citizenship. Over the past few months, we’ve been working hard to develop a new platform for our global citizenship work. Today, I want to give you a sneak preview of this new platform – STAND.


STAND celebrates the power of ordinary people to change the world. Here, you can share your ideas
about standing up for justice and equality, learn more about global issues, and find out what you – as an
individual and by coming together – can do to take positive action. In the coming weeks, we’ll also be
making some exciting announcements about changes to Suas so be sure to look out for another exciting
update shortly.