8 March, 2018

Changing Trade Starts With Gender Equality

by Julie Francoeur, Fairtrade Canada

As today is International Women’s Day, we are focusing on Sustainable Development Goal number 5 – achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

The UN says “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.” Gender equality is a fundamental aspect of the Fairtrade Standards which all Fairtrade producers must adhere to.

Julie Francoeur, our Executive Director, has first-hand experience of working with women in Fairtrade producer organizations:

SLFFA“When I started working in Fairtrade, I was a 24 year-old female responsible for field services in the Windward Islands. Female. More than me being young, Caucasian or speaking with a slight French accent, being female was the one thing that made me stand out while working with Fairtrade banana farmers. Giving trainings under sheds to men. Supporting the fully male Board of the farmer federation in its contract negotiations. I knew from the membership list that over 35% of the 1200 farmer coop were women, but where were they?" This image shows the Chairman, General Manager, board member and Social Premium Manager of the Saint-Lucia Fairtrade Farmer Association.

“A few would come, shy, to the AGM. Others I’d meet on the farms. Over the years, programs were built to engage with women farmers, to build their capacity to be part of the governance in their coop, to take pride in their crop. Such as the Gender Schools program that CLAC is running in Latin America, training young and older women and that have led to increased participation of women and adapted practices to reflect women’s farmer needs." The image at the top of the post shows two women spice farmers from Grenada attending a training session for the first time, after much coaxing from me.

“We know that at least half of the world’s agricultural work is done by women, yet on average their yields are 20-30% lower than men’s. This is due to less access to agricultural services, very low levels of land ownership, lower access to inputs and financial services. By working with women farmers and women agricultural workers, from the tea fields in India to flower farms in Ecuador, we build more resilient households.

“Some of Fairtrade’s work on the ground around gender involves long-term continuous work, such as governance participation and combatting gender discrimination. Other interventions, such as requiring coops to pay women farmers directly, and not through their husbands, fathers or a male relative as is often custom, has direct impacts today.”