Thursday, May 26, 2005

Choices

I try to be a conscious consumer and thankfully it seems to keep getting easier and easier as there are always alternatives. Lately though I've come across a few new obstacles.

I just read about Cadbury taking over Green and Blacks over at Daniel's. Nooooooo! I adore green and blacks chocolate and swear their dark chocolate is the best tasting in the world.

It's almost as bad as discovering about Nike taking over Converse. Although thankfully there is look alike brand No sweat.

Only recently though I discovered a new problem though: Beer!

I listened to a talk by Ian Lubek from SiRCHESI (Siem Reap Citizens for Health, Educational and Social Issues) on the HIV/AIDS crisis amongst beer girls in Siem Reap-Cambodia. Basically his organisation is trying to improve conditions for beer girls working for Heineken (and several other companies). As it stands at the moment beer girls are employed on a full time basis and paid a lot less than they need for the basic costs of living-food etc. They also work under pretty horrible conditions. So what often ends up happening is the girls resort to enough prostitution to pay for the basic costs. This is generally done under drunken conditions-the men are drunk (because the women are trying to encourage them to drink more beer) and the women are encouraged to also drink beer to promote it to the men. So often condoms are forgotten in their crazy state. This results in massive problems. Currently as its stands Sam Reap has the highest prevalence rates in Cambodia (which has the highest rates in South East Asia). It often means that the beer girls, the men, the men’s wives, their future children and the boyfriends of the beer girls all end up with HIV/AIDS. Only about 100 of 7-10,000 are able to receive life saving medications from NGOs. With inadequate health care they end up dying very quickly. Considering that Heineken is a huge international company the organisation is trying to get them to help or rather take a little ownership by doing three things:

  • Double the remuneration from about $55 /month to a minimum of $110/month. This would remove the necessity of a second job, which for illiterate women, often means accepting occasional propositions to exchange money for sex, sometimes after drinking with a client to reach a sales quota.

  • Provide effective health education to create behaviour changes that prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS in the community.

  • Provide free anti-retroviral Therapy to the 20% of beer promotion women who are HIV+.

But of course Heineken (and several others) are still continuing to turn a blind eye despite pressure from the organisation and even the local media. It is interesting to note that in other counties such as Canada that their beer girls work under better conditions which include health care and of course much better wages. Heineken even have a HIV policy for their other employees.

Read here for more:
Fair Trade Beer
Beergirls

Can someone recommend another beer? I just developed a liking for Stella which is on the no list.

2 comments:

Ian Lubek said...

Thanks for posting about the Beer promotion women of Cambodia. Many people find local microbrews that have no international sales programs that might be harmful. Some international brands don't use Beer promoters, but simply sell in supermarkets- they are the ones omitted from our list at www.fairtradebeer.com.

claire said...

I'm glad I read this post, I was unaware of this issue. I can recommend Coopers beer (my favourite), I didn't see them on the 'no' list.

Oh and this is the claire that you know from 'ucms'.