How Does Fair Trade Help Women?

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Fair Trade Helps WomenIf you’ve been reading our fair trade series, you know that this socially equitable marketing system essentially helps everyone concerned─including our fragile planet. However women are, in many cases, special beneficiaries.

Would you believe that in some regions, women provide 70% of the agricultural labor, produce more than 90% of the food, but earn just 10% of the income and own a mere 1% of the property? In many parts of the world, women’s property rights have been controlled by social norms─and even government regulations─impeding their economic status and overall opportunities. Fair trade is an important vehicle to help women help themselves by:

Fostering their empowerment

Fair trade offers women economic and social opportunities, giving them more control of their lives and improving their social positions. Women often hold key decision-making roles within their cooperatives, despite the cultural inequality often present in rural areas.

Improving their health

Women hired on fair trade farms and plantations are guaranteed access to health care, certain job rights, and freedom from harassment so they can play a strong role in their families and coops. Some coops have elected to use part of their fair trade premiums for women’s health programs that focus on nutrition and family planning.

Protecting against sexual discrimination

While women do much of the work on small farms and plantations, they often face unequal treatment, discrimination, and harassment in many rural areas and in factories. On fair trade farms, however, sexual harassment and discrimination are strictly prohibited. Workers are taught about their rights and grievance processes are in place to address complaints.

Providing educational opportunities

Scholarship programs funded by fair trade premiums─and additional fair trade income─enable girls and women better access to education, including opportunities for leadership roles and scholarships so they can aspire to a future where they can be their own boss.

Supporting gender equality

Many cooperatives create programs to advance gender equality and encourage female participation and leadership within the organization. Some cooperatives have adopted policies that state spousal abuse is grounds for dismissal from the cooperative.

Facilitating safe maternal conditions

Female workers on fair trade farms have access to paid maternity leave, vacation and sick leave, as well as a guarantee of their job upon their return. Fair trade standards guarantee they receive regular medical examinations and free protective equipment. Very importantly, these standards ensure that these women are not exposed to agrochemicals during pregnancy.

Brightening their children’s futures

When agricultural productivity improves, more family household income can be directed towards children’s education. Once basic survival needs are covered, many women across the globe use their fair trade income to fund their children’s education.

Fair trade clearly provides a vehicle to benefit women and their families in numerous ways. Support fair trade─empower women worldwide!

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