15. November 2022

Promoting Fair Trade at the University Promoting Fair Trade at the University

A passing of the torch at Fairtrade University Bonn

Fairtrade soccer balls for University Sports, fairtrade coffee and bananas in the cafeteria ... and close cooperation in committees. Luise Tegeler, Judith Meder and other students campaigned for greater fairtrade awareness at the University of Bonn for two years. Now as the two are finishing their master’s degrees, they are passing the torch. on to a next ‘generation’.

Dedicated to fair trade at the University: Luise Tegeler is studying Geography; Judith Meder is studying Agricultural and Food Economics in the master's degree program.
Dedicated to fair trade at the University: Luise Tegeler is studying Geography; Judith Meder is studying Agricultural and Food Economics in the master's degree program. © Volker Lannert / University of Bonn
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What was your experience in working with the University? Is there now awareness of the issue?

Judith: There is awareness, certainly. An incredible amount has happened over the last two years, including formation of the Vice Rectorate for Sustainability and the Green Office, which are now providing support. Our biggest wins, without question, are getting the Studierendenwerk to switch to fairtrade, organic bananas, and getting University Sports to exclusive purchase fairtrade balls. Cooperation with the University was good at all times. We received important support as well from University Communications and several other divisions with implementing our ideas and organizing events.

What campaigns or achievements do you most enjoy looking back on?

Luise: One thing that comes immediately to mind is last September when we did a soccer goal wall shooting as part of Fair Week and Bonn SDG Days. It was a great campaign, and not just for the students. It was a playful way to generate interest in the topic among young and old in soccer ball manufacturing according to fairtrade principles.

Judith: For my part, I like to recall the talks we organized with Bundestag candidates from Bonn as part of the Fairsprechen initiative (‘Fair Promises’). In addition to the interesting conversations and discussions we had in the run-up to the Bundestag parliamentary elections, we got all of the candidates to make the Fairsprechen promises—to utilize their respective offices once elected to promote fair labor and trading practices. That was definitely a major success. 

How were you able find balance between those efforts and studying Geography and Agricultural and Food Economics?

Luise: As part of my major in Development and Globalization I extensively studied global inequality, in supply chains for example, and most recently in my master’s thesis on the Supply Chain Act soon to be enacted. My work promoting fair trade at the University of Bonn was an opportunity to combine theory with practice in making campus life more sustainable.

Judith: My master’s program didn’t directly concern fair trade in any way unfortunately, but the issues are still very much connected to my studies, so I always saw my activism as very relevant. And this activism has had visible results after all, such as the successful events we held. These fulfilling activities certainly helped me get through certain weeks in the pandemic when my student life was reduced down to nothing more than zoom meetings.

What’s next for the remaining team members of the Fairtrade University Bonn initiative?

Luise: We were very fortunate to have brought several dedicated students on board the initiative within the last few months, and are hopeful that a permanent new team will be able to carry on the work. Fairtrade is now structurally anchored at the University of Bonn regardless of what further student activism may achieve. Anyone interested is invited to join whenever they like— we meet bi-weekly. We already have some cooking workshops planned for next semester, in coordination with the Green Office and state initiative NEiS on sustainable food

What are your plans for after you graduate?

Luise: I would really like to work at a non-governmental organization, and I can certainly see myself continuing to work in the area of fair trade and fair supply chain practices—as my full-time gig!

Judith: I would like work more in the area of fair labor and trading practices after my studies. I got started working at the Weltladen fairtrade shop, and my dedication to the issue has really grown throughout the years; I definitely want to continue on. Luckily there are numerous such initiatives, so I’m sure I’ll be able to find exciting new challenges.

What would you wish for your successors?

Luise: I would hope that they get to feel the great joy and enthusiasm I did in helping many more people learn about fair trade, and in campaigning for decent work conditions. And perseverance, of course, plus the courage to keep pushing for further ‘fair changes’ at the University of Bonn.


Interested in getting involved?

You can find more information here.

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