Back in April I found out that the CEO of Senda Athletics was planning a trip to Pakistan to visit the ball stitchers and check up on the working conditions, to make sure that the fair trade goals were being met, and to get to know some of the workers. I really wanted to get a story of Santiago’s experiences while in Pakistan and to also try and get an inside look. Here is what CEO Santiago had to say.
What is fair trade?
Fair Trade means that the people making Senda’s soccer balls are getting a fair wage, good working conditions, and there is no child labor, all guaranteed by a third party certifying body called Fair Trade USA.
Santiago’s Trip To Pakistan
On May 9th, I visited Sialkot, Pakistan for ten days on behalf of Senda Athletics. During my time, I visited the factory where our fair trade soccer balls are produced. It was important for me, especially as the founder of Senda, to finally visit the factory and meet the people behind our products. I wanted to see first-hand how fair trade impacts them and bring these experiences back home.
Although it took some time for the workers to get used to a foreigner being around, they were very friendly and welcoming. I was really pleased to see the stitchers working with a smile, and leaving the factory after a reasonable amount of hours. I spoke with many of the workers with the help of a translator, and I visited their homes. I even got to play a game of soccer with them, which was one of my happiest and most physically-exhausting moments of trip (sadly my team lost by one goal). I not only learned how a Senda ball is created from start to finish, but I also spoke with many of the stitchers.
One of the most memorable people I met on the trip was Tahir Abba. His story sticks with me because he showed so much perseverance. He is physically disabled, but that didn’t stop him from the difficult and time-consuming task of stitching soccer balls, which requires the use of legs. He overcame his disability and manages to make a living for himself.
During my trip, I also saw how Senda positively affects the local community. Senda uses the trade premiums to help fund different community projects. These projects are decided upon by a group of democratically elected factory workers, known as the Joint Body. One of the Joint Body’s biggest tasks was to look after the Fair Price Shop, which allowed the workers to save their income by buying food at a wholesale price. During my visit, the community decided that it wants the Fair Price Shop to offer over-the-counter medication, and the Joint Body will start implementing this idea within the next couple of months. I was very satisfied to see fair trade positively impacting our workers.
For those wondering how to get involved, I would tell them to tell their friends about the importance and existence of fair trade soccer balls. Our biggest challenge is raising awareness about the issue, and informing people that they have a choice to buy an ethical and a quality soccer ball.
Currently, I am in the beginning stages of creating a documentary about my trip so that more people can learn about the people who make their soccer balls, and understand the positive impact of fair trade. I hope to increase sales and use the fair trade premiums to continue this trend. Many of the workers want education for their children, and we hope to make scholarships and zero-interest loans available to our workers in the future.
It only makes sense that if people create something that brings so much joy, that they should be able to create it under happy circumstances themselves. My goal of getting to know the people behind our soccer balls was achieved. Next time you buy a ball, consider who makes it and give fair trade soccer balls a chance.
Senda is currently doing an indiegogo fundraising campaign where anyone can make a pledge to help them make a movie about Fair Trade in soccer, while getting some some nice perks like t-shirts, mini-balls, soccer postcards, and even a Giant soccer Ball! Hope you will check that out, and consider being a part of that cool project.