As consumers, You and I are also winners in the Global Political Economy

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Have you ever wondered how favorite NUT – the CASHEW got to our supermarket shelves??? 

Yes, the luxury cashew, one of the world’s favourite snacks.  Out of the nut family, it is the most expensive but we buy it anyway because of its flavour and dense crunchiness. However, after reading Sunita’s story, cashew never looked or taste the same.     Here is Sunita’s story: 

Sunita from India has been working in a government-run factory, de-shelling nuts for 39 years. Cashew deshelling is not an easy task because the fruit produces a caustic liquid that burns the skin. Although sometimes workers are provided with protection, often workers have to provide their own protection (rubber gloves) at their own expense. So those who cannot afford it would use their bare hands.

 

Sunita earns as little as 30p a day and the risk of permanent injury…Yes after 39 years of service to the factory and the Indian government she is worth 30 PENCE a day! Probably 30p is a lot of money in Indian but I doubt it because then she and other factories worker like her would not struggle to make ends meet and therefore live in poverty all their lives.  It is even worst for some women who earn as little as 1p (1 Rupee). (Guardian Newspaper, 2nd Nov. 2013)

Working all those years in the factory has taken a toll on Sunita’s health as her job requires her to sit in the same position all day de-shelling cashew. She now suffers from back, joint and shoulder pain, and so do most of her colleagues who works in the factory. She also suffers from arthritis and diabetes. Despite her low wage and inhuman treatment, she claims that her working conditions have improved in recent years as she is now free to take toilet breaks! Unthinkable. Right?? I am aware that awful things happen in factories, call me ignorant but I never would have thought that things could be that extreme. People not allowed to answer the call of nature because it interferes with their duties! Reading things like this or seeing them on television makes me realize how lucky and blessed I am because I could have been the one being exploited in a Nike factory in Bangladesh, or in some remote coffee farm in Ethiopia or in an overcrowded call centre in Bombay.

Anyway, 60 per cent of the cashew consumed globally is produced in India, a majority of which end up in European Union supermarkets and so do most products from factories in the South (Guardian Newspaper, 2 Nov.2013). 

 

So in a way not only Sunita, but the Nike worker, the coffee farmer etc. are exploited to meet the consumer needs of people in the global North…Yes you and I!!! Therefore we the consumers in global North are also winners in the global political economy as we are the ones who benefit from the products that are produced by workers like Sunita. And because of we live in a competitive world we as consumers are powerful  as a result we have high demands and we expect our products to rich us in the highest of qualities.   Sadly, people like Sunita are overexploited in order to meet those demands. Therefore we also need to some responsibility for the exploitation of workers like Sunita.  We as consumers, have a social responsibility towards or brothers and sisters and children around the globe being exploited. We need to take a stand to help fight this fundamental problem.

 

Fatou Jallow

 

 

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2 thoughts on “As consumers, You and I are also winners in the Global Political Economy

  1. Yes, you and I are winners as we are the consumers. We should (do?) have a social responsibility towards the awful conditions the exploited workers experience, but is it possible? Without the change of the current paradigmatic neoliberal world system, the market more or less decide what we want and when we want it, regardless of the production process. Of course it would be helpful to inform consumers around the world, letting them know about conditions and implications to what we buy, but at the end of the day – would it help? The media informs of all the time, but it does not always effect people and they live on with their regular routines. Of course with the few exceptions of individuals who do change their habits. It has become increasingly popular to ‘help others’ and ‘do good’, but conditions all over the developing world do continue to shock us. What needs to be changed? The people, the market or our prevailing world system?

    Anette Stepanoski

  2. Yes, we could be seen as winners in this case. But have you ever wondered how you and I may in fact be the biggest losers? HOW, you ask?
    Well, we tut and complain that these big companies are exploiting their workers to produce goods that we as consumers demand for. But like Anette said, “we want it, regardless of the production process.” And I personally may decide to stop buying cashew nuts after reading this article, but will it help? From my perspective, I want to help people like Sunita and her colleagues, but what am I doing apart from feeling sorry for them? Nothing. What CAN I do? I don’t know. And this this how we are losers. In not being able to fight the global market system because a) I frankly don’t know how I would start to change it, and b) even if I did start, would my actions be significant enough to change the work ethics of all the major exploitative MNCs?

    Veera Lamichhane

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