- Posted October 20, 2011 by
San Juan City, Philippines
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Are you a slavery-free consumer?
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
The day this assignment was posted, I told myself that this would be an easy task to carry out since there are a lot of things around me I can talk about.
That’s what I thought.
When I started planning on what item in the house I could go into, I suddenly felt like I was facing an invisible wall. I see a lot of things around me but I can’t seem to make a step toward one. I am aware of what they’re made of but I realized I don’t know where most of them come from.
Subsequently, I turned to the internet and probed a site, then clicked one link after another, about a product that I know everyone uses – cooking oil.
The pages I thoroughly read explained that coconut is one source of cooking oil. After reading some more, I stumbled upon the issue of farm child labor.
I read accounts about children who climb coconut trees, without harnesses or safety gears, in matter of seconds with cutting tools in their mouths to loosen the coconuts from the top of the tree.
Information on rural child labor are limited but research points out that a percentage of these children are unpaid family workers who help out on the farm for planting, harvesting and others and the use of children customarily happens at the height of the harvest season.
These children earn what they can and share it with their family and like their families, they are defenseless and paid less than what they deserve.
After learning all these, I decided to call the office of a local cooking oil manufacturer.
When I called the first time, a woman, who I think is a secretary, confidently told me that their cooking oil is 100% coconut.
Two phone calls later and after explaining to them that I just wanted to know where they get their coconuts, I was told that they are not allowed to disclose any information in that regard.
One week passed.
One night, I saw my son earnestly stringing together beads for their project in school. He was making a rosary. This reminded me of the assignment.
I thought, “Now this is something that was made slavery free.”
But no – you see, I ended up thinking where the nylon string and beads come from, how they are made and who makes them.
In the internet, I read a few pages of books and about a 5 year and decade old stories about beads manufactured by children and sweatshops where children sew beads on clothings.
I could only hope that children were not involved in the production of the beads my son is using in his project and that those who made them were treated fairly and paid justly.
Wanting to find out more about what my family uses in the house and if they are slavery free, I decided to talk to my father.
He’s a chemical engineer and works for a chemical manufacturing company.
“…From natural gas and rock salt….” He explained as I tried my very best to understand where the stacked plastic storage containers in our kitchen come from.
“So that is the process and the end product is called resin. The resin is delivered to our plant (from other countries) and that is what we work with and manufacture to other forms such as pvc, containers (and others).” He added.
“I can assure you that what we make in the plant are all done by machines and no employee is treated unjustly but for the processing of the resin and before it arrives at our plant, I really cannot tell you if any form of slavery is involved.” My father said.
The day I read about this assignment was the first instance I thought about where the things I use everyday come from. I began wondering what they are made of, what their components are, how they are made and who makes them.
After almost three weeks, I am still wondering.