Why Buy Fairtrade And Ethical Bags?

Posted on 01. Dec, 2007 by in Non-Profit ethics

Indiann Davinos asked:

Why were the quintessentially English clothing company Mulberry selling African Bags? And what part do bottle tops play in the battle against Aids?

Bottle-top bags may sound like an idea straight from Blue Peter, but Mulberry’s version is miles away from double-sided sticky tape and coat hangers. The bags, crafted in Africa from recycled wire and bottle tops are lined with luxurious Congo leather, contrasting perfectly with their eye-catching, deconstructed image. And these bags are not just the latest fashion accessory, but an inspired way of raising money for Action Aids HIV/AIDS campaign.

Mulberrys non-profit bags are the focus of their campaign to halt the rising tide of people infected with HIV/AIDS. The company hopes the bags, retailing at 99 pounds, could raise as much as 100,000 pounds. And just in case you find you have nothing to wear or your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the bags, they have also brought out bottle top campaign T-shirts and key rings. Susan Mears of Action Aid is thrilled with the scheme, This is a dream come true project- the money will come in very, very useful.


40 million people worldwide are infected with HIV/AIDS, and the majority of them are young: between 15 and 25. The International Aids conference in July warned that in 30 African countries average life expectancy by 2010 would be 27 years of age. Karen Stanecki whose branch compiled the report for US Aid, told The Guardian these levels have not been seen since the end of the 19th century. Many of those dying today from Aids are financial providers, whose deaths leave poor families destitute- 14 million children have lost one or both parents to Aids.

The greatest obstacle to controlling Aids is the stigma surrounding it. In many cases people with the disease are shunned. Prisca, HIV positive for twelve years, has lost her husband, two children and three siblings to AIDS related illness and has been ostracised for speaking out about the disease, Up to this very day, I dont speak to my sister. She says I have tarnished our family name, she told Action Aid. This attitude can obstruct education, the most effective way to prevent the rate of infection rising.

Uganda is one of the few countries to subdue its Aids epidemic. The mobilisation of communities and a willingness to confront the epidemic led to falling prevalence rate. This is largely due to 5,000 projects throughout the country tackling the problem. Educating women and girls is essential in cutting the rate of infection. Unfortunately girls are often removed from education to care for relatives with Aids. In the last 5 years the number of women and girls infected has risen by 40% according to Oxfam.

Cameron, the son of Mulberry chairman, Roger Saul, experienced Ugandas effective education strategies first hand while teaching sexual health education for Students Partnership Worldwide. Anxious to find ways to support the charity, he found inspiration on the arm of a village girl: a bottle-top bag. He believed, once Mulberry-fied, the bag could raise the profile of Aids awareness. The attraction of the bags is partly their novelty, which he hopes will get people asking questions – theyre a fun way to engage people with the serious issues of AIDS/HIV. His father, Roger, visited him in Uganda and was equally pleased to have found such an original way to help the 14,000 people who are infected everyday.


Action Aid plan to spend the money in Kenya, looking after the 730,000 children who have been made orphans by Aids and the more then 2 million who are currently living with the disease. The charity has fifteen years experience of pioneering prevention and community based care. They believe the best ways to change peoples attitudes and counteract the secrecy and ignorance allowing HIV to gain so many new victims is through loca groups. They support them through training, resources and advice to ensure the people most affected by the disease are at the centre of developing effective responses to the epidemic. SPW will also receive some of the money to allow them to continue to train students to give sexual heath education.

In East Africa, where the bags are made, there is another reason to celebrate. Not only are the bags created from recycling wire and bottle-tops and so are environmentally friendly, but Action Aid pledges the workers who create the bags are both paid and treated fairly. Let’s hope Mulberrys bags set a trend for fashion without victims.

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