Arisa Motomura
Obayashi Seishin Joshi Gakuin Middle School

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I love chocolate. I like mint chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate with caramel.0000000 The only kind I don t like is chocolate made from cocoa beans picked by child laborers.

Most of the world s cocoa is grown in economically-impoverished countries where child laborers between the ages of 7 and 14 work to earn money for their families. These child laborers cannot go to school or learn new skills to improve their lives.

This made me feel guilty each time I enjoyed eating a chocolate bar because someone my age was forced to work for my pleasure. That s why I was really glad when I found out about the Fairtrade Foundation. The Fairtrade Foundation started in Europe about 20 years ago and provides better working conditions and a fair share of profits to farmers in developing countries. When we buy fair trade chocolate, cocoa farmers can earn a higher profit to help improve their lives so that their children don t have to work and can go to school. Best of all, the fair trade program does not allow any child laborers under the age of 15.

According to the Chocolate and Cocoa Association of Japan, the average person in Japan eats about 2.2 kg. of chocolate each year. Nearly 80% of Japan s cocoa beans are imported from Ghana, where UNICEF estimates that 34% of young people work illegally as child laborers. Unfortunately, not a single Japanese chocolate company produces fair trade chocolate. All the fair trade chocolate sold in Japan is imported, mainly from Europe. That s why purchasing fair trade chocolate is so important -- if we change our buying habits and purchase only fair trade chocolate, then the sales of fair trade chocolate will go up and the sales of non-fair trade chocolate will go down. When non-fair trade companies lose money, they ll investigate why, and when they learn that we consumers want chocolate products that support the principles and practices of fair trade, companies then will want to get our money by making a few fair trade chocolate items. This has happened with two of the world s biggest chocolate makers, Cadbury and Nestle, which are now producing a few chocolate bars that are fair-trade certified. I think this is an excellent example of how the buying power of consumers like us can change the ways businesses operate and help improve the lives of poor people, including child laborers. And here s something else that s important - young people our age are the biggest consumers of candy and snacks. Adults have more money than us teenagers, but we are the ones who spend the most money on snack items. We teenagers are the ones who can help make sure that other young people don t have to labor in cocoa fields and have the chance to go to school just like we do.

At present, you can buy fair trade chocolate on the Internet and at some specialty grocery shops, including Ikari, Seijyo-Ishi, and Kinokuniya supermarkets, and the store People Tree. In fact, I stopped at the People Tree shop and bought some fair trade chocolate just before I came here. I d be happy to show it to you after the speeches, but sorry  no free samples.

Actress and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie said,  We shape our future by the way we raise our children. We each have the power and responsibility to stop child labor and the fair trade system is just one step towards making that happen. What we choose to buy does help or hurt other people. I believe we can change the world if we think and act responsibly about what we buy. I hope you ll join me and use your buying power to help young people like us have better lives.

(2-11 Speech in 62nd Contest, 2010)

(C)JNSA FUND/the Yomiuri Shimbun

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