On the Record: On Ethical Fashion

For our fifth segment of On the Record, our Sustainability Officer, Ida Marie Sandvik, talks about ethical consumption and the fashion industry. She also invites us to reflect on our roles as consumers and what we can do as individuals to achieve a more ethical fashion industry.

maggie

Q. Why did you pick this picture in particular?
A. I picked this picture because I did two events this week for Fashion Revolution Week and these are some of the materials we used, and a bit of a summary of what has happened this week.

Q. Could you tell me a bit more about those events?
A. I had one presentation for two organisations in Monash, and they asked me to talk about ethical consumption, and then today I had a participatory workshop because I am the student ambassador for Fashion Revolution. So to support their movement and in the spirit of Fashion Revolution week we had this workshop for people to discuss the power dynamics in the fashion supply chain.

Q. What got you interested in fashion and, particularly, in the ethics of the fashion industry?
A. It is actually quite a long story but I studied anthropology and I have always been interested in understanding behavioural economy and read a lot of books about the psychology behind choices when we buy or consume products. I then decided to come to Australia to study International Development and specialise in Sustainable Resource Management, and then I saw the connection between the fashion industry and behavioural economy. I have also worked for a fast-fashion company, where I got an understanding of these new trends constantly coming in encouraging us to consume.

Q. Do you see any improvements in the fashion industry?
A. I am doing my thesis on sustainable fashion at the moment, and I have definitely found both in the academic field and also looking at media outlets and at industry reports that there is a movement now towards more responsibility and higher sustainability in production. Companies are now considering where they buy their clothes from and what materials they are using. I definitely see that there is an ongoing movement that is gaining more momentum.

Q. Do you have any advice for us as consumers as to how we can help?
A. My advice is to really consider how you vote with your money. Every time that you buy a product it is actually a vote for the world you want or the products that you want. Really consider the bigger picture of your consumption; both in terms of the materials you buy into but also how much you buy, and what brands you support.

 

 

If you would be interested in participating on our next On the Record segment, please do not hesitate to contact our Content Editor at editor.midpassociation@gmail.com

On the Record: Indigenous Rights

For our fourth segment of On the Record, our Managing Editor, Kathy Hofilena, talks about Indigenous knowledge and their relationship to the environment. She also invites us to reflect on Indigenous Rights based on her experience in the Philippines, as well as considering the danger of appropriation and exploiting local knowledge.

Kathy

Q. Can you describe what is happening in this picture?
A. 2 years ago, a couple of friends and I were invited to visit one of the indigenous communities in the north of the Phillippines, in Buscalan. At that time, batok- a traditional tattooing technique- was becoming popular, so tourism to the region was increasing as a result. In this picture, you can see me getting a traditional Kalinga tattoo by Apo Whang-Od. She is the last mambabatok; the last traditional tattoo artist.

Q. Why did you choose this picture?
A. I chose this photo because thinking about Indigenous rights brings me back to that experience, to that tattoo. When I was there I also struggled with a lot of issues when it comes to Indigenous rights. Because I was acquiring something from their traditions, was I commodifying indigenous knowledge? Or was I helping them empower themselves by encouraging cultural economy? I was lucky enough to get a chance to talk to the elders and other community members, and they were actually very welcoming to tourists. They saw the influx of tourists as something that would benefit their community, as it would increase their income. In that way, they could become more independent and develop themselves in the way that they really wanted to. It definitely eased some of my concerns, but not all of them.

Q. What issues were you still concerned about?
A. Commodification, mostly. The tattoos were traditionally for headhunters, as a sign of bravery. For women, it was used as a sign of beauty. Some people, therefore, believe that these tattoos should only be had by headhunters and the elders, but others believe that it is something that should be shared with the wider community. This technique is something that they want to spread, and make known. It is important to note that this opinion was not imposed, but rather the community came up with this decision by themselves.

Q. What tattoo did you end up getting?
A. I got the traditional symbol for the scorpion, which represents strength and protection. A lot of their symbols derive from nature, like insects, eagles, centipedes, mountains… This relates to how, traditionally, their sense of spirituality and identity was drawn from nature. This is something that I really identify with and that I admire about them. It was actually when I was in this community that I truly witnessed how there are different kinds of ‘development’. Before that, I would only think of development as high-rise buildings and better public infrastructure. But indigenous people have their own self-determination and their own ideas of development, and it is only by respecting their ideas that you can have diversity in thinking about development instead of being stuck in one mind frame; that was what truly inspired me to pursue a career in international development

 

 

If you would be interested in participating on our next On the Record segment, please do not hesitate to contact our Content Editor at editor.midpassociation@gmail.com

On the Record: On Happiness

For our third segment of On the Record, we have a guest contributor: Caroline is a Communications Officer working for a faith-based organisation on a project about modern slavery in the UK. She has previously worked in fundraising and communications for an international development charity. On this occasion, Caroline reflects on the links between safety and happiness, and how that relates to her experiences in the field.This week’s topic was chosen to honour the International Day of Happiness.

On the Record 3 (Happiness)

Q. Why did you take this picture?
A. I took this picture because my brief was to take something about happiness and wellbeing and, for me, books and reading are the things that make me really happy. It feels like a safe space for me so I thought I would take a picture of the books in my bookshelf. I have recently become pretty ruthless about what books I allow on my bookshelf because we live in such a small apartment, so I only keep books there that I either have not read yet or I have read and I want to share with a friend or to read again. So definitely things that make me happy.

Q. What is it about books that make you feel safe?
A. Ooh, good question! I think that because I read a lot as a kid, it reminds me of that safe space of childhood but then also this idea that you can travel to different worlds, or try on different identities, or get to know all these different characters without actually having to meet them. Basically, there is a barrier between you and the scary outside world but you still get to experience so many different things.

Q. Do you think is the link between safety and happiness then?
A. That’s a really interesting question because I think people often put safety or security before happiness, so safety becomes the bedrock on which happiness can be built. In the modern slavery project that I work on you hear a lot about victims who stay in a place of exploitation because it is what they know; maybe they have been exploited from a young age, or they might be afraid to escape because they do not know what the next thing will be, or how the authorities will treat them, or how the next people they meet will treat them… so they put security above this idea of happiness that could happen. [pause] I am not a victim of slavery and have not been exploited, so for me, I suppose, safety and happiness are things I take for granted.

 

 

If you would be interested in participating on our next On the Record segment, please do not hesitate to contact our Content Editor at editor.midpassociation@gmail.com

Caroline
Communications Officer

On the Record: On Discrimination

For our second segment of On the Record, our Marketing and Partnerships Officer, Javier Icaza Santos reflects on what discrimination means to him, how it affects us on a daily basis, and what that means for development programs. This week’s topic was chosen to honour the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

On the Record 2 (discrimination)

Q. Why did you take this picture?
A. When you asked me to take a picture about discrimination I really did not know what on earth I was going to do… then, one day, I was walking past the Law building and I saw this and I realised it was easier than I thought.

Q. What did you see in particular?
A. If you look closely, you can see how the main group is almost exclusively made of Asian students, and then you can see how even people who are sitting alone tend to sit closer to people from their same race. That was when I realised how much we tend to discriminate, even unconsciously; how much we tend to pick the familiar over opening ourselves up to new people.

Q. Are you referring exclusively to racial discrimination?
A. That was the most evident factor in my picture and something that is quite common in our everyday life, but no. I think we also tend to discriminate based on how we think, not just how we look. Think about it: we tend to spend time with people who share our same values and ideas. I think we can also tend to discriminate based on ideology.

Q. How do you feel that relates to Development?
A. [laughs] That is a deep question! But yeah, I think that this way of thinking affects Development a lot. Nowadays, Development is undoubtedly global and, even with all the different economic systems in place, we all depend on each other. Therefore, if you support programs that favour discrimination -that is to say, favour one race in particular- then that is not development, that is exploitation; that is resource exploitation.

If you would be interested in participating in On The Record, please do not hesitate to contact our Content Editor at editor.midpassociation@gmail.com

Javier
Marketing & Partnerships (2016)

On the Record: On Gender

On the Record is MIDPA’s freshest segment, combining the art of photography with the practice of development. Following the methodology of photovoice, we ask participants to capture an image on a topic they are passionate about, and then add their voice to these images. The consequent interview adds context to the images, encouraging debate and reflection.

In honour of International Women’s Day, our Content Editor, Feli Bran, kicks off this segment with her reflections on gender, beauty, and representation.

IMG_9020

Q. Why did you choose this picture in particular?

A. I stumbled upon this advertisement by accident in a busy downtown street in Sydney. I was still a bit unsure of what my contribution would be for the blog on International Women’s Day and then I saw this picture and felt such rage that the words just flowed from me.

Q. What is it about this picture that had your blood boiling?

A. I don’t really know where to start. I think when people state that we live in a post-feminist society, that gender is no longer an issue, that we all have equal rights, I struggle to see what they see. I was actually with my brother and my dad when I came across this image, and they did not seem to make much out of it but for me? It was like someone had dropped a cold bucket of water on me.

Q. Could you pinpoint why that was exactly?

A. I think as a girl you always have a tight balancing act of beauty versus intelligence. I remember being a teenager and ‘uglifying’ myself on purpose because I wanted people to take me seriously. Society had taught me that a pretty woman was just that: a trophy to be paraded to the world. And that was the only thing I had to aspire to. I struggled a lot because I knew I wanted more out of life than being someone’s property. I felt like I was being placed into a box that I had not subscribed to and had no way whatsoever of getting out.

This is just one example of how women’s bodies are constantly commodified and objectified. It makes me feel powerless feeling like my main goal in life as a woman is to achieve a certain paragon of beauty that is completely unrelated to who I am as a human being. This is society telling us: you have no ownership over your body but rather your body is a vessel for others to appreciate. Men are not subjected to this kind of pressure to this extent; these double standards never fail to get me riled up.

Q. So is it more of a personal issue?

A. Yes, and no. That was my experience, but I am also a white latina. Imagine being a woman of colour and stumbling upon this advert. Apparently, perfect beauty means a skinny white woman with long blonde hair –but hairless everywhere else! – that has a noticeable cleavage. How would you feel? You can clearly see that colonialism and oppression still feature heavily in our society; they have just become subtle in their rhetoric. We only need to open our eyes to actually see it.

 

 

If you would be interested in participating in On The Record, please do not hesitate to contact our Content Editor at editor.midpassociation@gmail.com