At the moment I'm recording a brand new album for release later this year, while continuing to perform regularly for my fans. And this gives me some spare time to plan ahead as it's that time of year when as a mum I start to look forward to the school holidays and the long summer break when I can spend more time with my lovely daughters.
My career has been quite varied, I do a lot of things, from singing to presenting. Singing is emotional, whereas presenting is more matter of fact. It's all about being passionate about your subject matter. And I'm passionate about my music but also about people, which is why I support Fairtrade amongst other things.
I know that in just under two months my youngest will be in a new year at school and I'll need to kit her out with a new school uniform. We make a choice but often don't stop to think about where our cotton comes from. Often it's grown by women in West Africa and India who struggle to send their own children to school. That's why my daughter's uniform will be made from Fairtrade cotton. And I'll be telling other people to take a step for Fairtrade too.
I know the impact of buying a Fairtrade product can have, and that what it does for farming communities in poor countries makes such a difference. When I visited villages in India, I was so moved by the difference that the farmers could collectively make. I believe we have a duty to bring the whole world into one big community where we are all looking out for each other.
I also believe in respect, which is why I'm working to raise awareness for the West African and Indian cotton farmers. They're not getting a fair price and it's time they got a better deal. So I'm calling on UK mums to join the 'Step Back to School in Fairtrade Cotton' campaign. It's a nationwide call to action to boost sales of Fairtrade cotton school uniform for the start of the new school year as farmers struggle to feed their children during tough economic times. The Fairtrade Foundation is creating a Fairtrade school uniform finder on its website and mums who register their 'step' online will be entered for a prize draw to win a free goody bag.
Selling their cotton on Fairtrade terms is one of the few opportunities available to struggling cotton farmers to be able to work their way out of poverty. In the UK we spend £1 billion per year on school uniforms, but currently only a tiny percentage of this is Fairtrade. Every Fairtrade cotton school uniform bought by families in the UK represents real benefits such as schools, books, clean drinking water and health clinics for poor cotton farmers who often can't afford to send their own children to school.
Thanks to the Fairtrade Premium, MOBIOM, an organic cotton co-operative in Mali, West Africa has been able to fund a number of community projects including a literacy centre to address the high illiteracy rate - over 80 per cent of MOBIOM's members are illiterate. The premium has also helped fund a maternity clinic and wells to provide safe drinking water for villagers, significantly reducing the workload of women as they no longer have the time-consuming and strenuous task of collecting water and have more time to undertake other activities. The co-operative has also invested in primary school desks and benches. Members would like to build more schools but this can only happen if they are able to sell more of their cotton on Fairtrade terms.
As part of the initiative, young people in 1,300 schools around the UK will learn about unfair trade in cotton production. Pupils will be asked to come up with a design for the school uniform of the future as part of a nationwide competition and the winning design will receive a visit from a Fairtrade cotton producer as first prize. Schools plan to hold dedicated assemblies, fun activities and exhibitions about Fairtrade cotton to flag up their support for the initiative.
The Fairtrade Foundation has created a special mixed media animated film showing the story of cotton and why Fairtrade is important.
Fairtrade cotton school uniforms are can be bought from Marks & Spencer, Tesco and online. But if you can't find what you are looking for in your local store, speak to the store manager and ask them to order it in.
To take a Step for Fairtrade, visit www.fairtrade.org.uk/steps
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