Oct 172007
Authors: Beth Malmskog

CSU marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality on Wednesday with a daytime fair on LSC plaza featuring informational speakers, booths and live music.

The day’s activities and an evening of slam poetry, speakers, and film at Mugs Coffee lounge were organized by Fair Advocates for Cultural Truth (FACT), a CSU student organization devoted to raising awareness of social injustice in the world.

October 17 was recognized by the United Nations in 1992 as the International Day for Eradicating Poverty and Inequality, though it was first observed in 1987. This is the first year that CSU has organized events around the day.

“It’s not like we think that one day of awareness is going to eradicate poverty,” said Denise Ondaro, president of FACT and a junior studying political science and ethnic studies.

However, Ondaro says that the point is to get people talking and thinking about poverty and inequality in the world and educate students about what they can do to help.

Representatives from FACT, Habitat for Humanity, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, Village Earth and other organizations concerned with poverty and inequality set up informational tables on the plaza beside businesses like the Fort Collins Food Co-Op, who were showcasing their socially-conscious products and business choices. Local band Modus donated their music to the cause.

Samantha Yang, a senior studying in Mathematics and Art at CSU, was at the fair representing INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. Awareness raising events like this one are important, she said, because they remind student of the inequities many can overlook in a community like Fort Collins.

“In a college community, it’s really easy to think that everyone is privileged,” Yang said. “But that’s just not true.”

Each organization’s angle on poverty was a little different. For example, Habitat for Humanity is concerned with providing affordable housing to families in America and abroad. Lauren Morgan, manning Habitat’s booth, would like to see students think of basic needs like shelter as “a right and not a privilege” for all people.

Another topic addressed by booths and speakers was unfair trade practices which exploit and aggravate the poverty of people in developing nations. Fair trade is promoted as the other option.

“Free trade is the antithesis of fair trade,” said Janna Fisher, Vice President of FACT and a senior studying Art History and Ethnic Studies.

Under free trade agreements, large companies are often able to set extremely low prices for goods and services from developing countries.

Coffee, chocolate and bananas are three products where the difference between standard industry practice and fair trade makes a big difference in the lives of people in source countries, said Suzanne Mariska Gilespie, representing the Fort Collins Food Co-Op at the event.

Clothing is also a major concern, Fisher said. In Asian factories, “women and children are working hard creating the shirts we wear. What we can buy for $20, they get paid pennies for making.”

One thing each person can do to help is to “be a conscious buyer,” Fisher said.

“Talk about fair trade,” Ondaro adds. “From there, the word spreads, and we can create demand for fair trade practices.”

Staff writer Beth Malmskog can be reached at News@collegian.com.

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