Continuing our series of blog posts about the relationship between the Sustainable Development Goals and Fairtrade, Goal number 4 is Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
The UN states “Obtaining a quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development. In addition to improving quality of life, access to inclusive education can help equip [people] with the tools required to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems.”
With summer coming to an end, students have returned to schools and campuses across Canada. However, in many countries in the Global South the daily routine of classes, recess, and homework is not available to many children, with girls often the most excluded. Even for those who are able to receive some schooling, basic skills in reading and math are not well taught, and opportunities for further education can be very limited.
When we listen to the goals and aspirations of our Fairtrade producers very often their number one priority is to be able to send their children to school. Doing so would allow their children to receive a quality education, opening up greater opportunities to improve their quality of life. This doesn’t always mean moving away from farming – many farmers’ children study subjects such as agriculture, crop science and coffee cupping so that they can return to the family business with knowledge and skills that improve productivity and product which will help increase income.
The Fairtrade Premium is often used for educational purposes - nearly half of the expenditure linked to SDG4 was spent on services to communities, including school buildings and infrastructure, and school services covering provision of meals, books, computers or uniforms. Premium spending on education also appears to benefit community members more directly as just over half of the expenditure was used for projects focusing on providing education services for workers and their families or farmer members, mostly spent as scholarships and bursaries.
At Harvest flower farms in Kenya, educational programmes geared towards ensuring better opportunities for the younger generation, especially girls, are a key focus of their Premium-related investments. Despite advancements in access to education, secondary schools still require tuition payments, which many parents can’t afford. Fifty percent of Harvest workers have already benefited from individual bursaries for their children.
In addition, Fairtrade Premium funds have also been used to supply free sanitary napkins to the girls in the community so that they can they attend school full-time. In the past, girls used to stay at home or even drop out of school because they could not afford sanitary napkins. This project has increased girls’ school attendance substantially.
Workers at Harvest are also offered opportunities to learn new skills themselves, including classes on driving and computer skills among others. You can read more about these initiatives in the latest Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Report from Fairtrade International.
Focusing on education in Canada, very soon we will be celebrating the sixth annual Fair Trade Campus Week, a student-led celebration of Fair Trade. This year more than 70 campuses in all ten provinces will be holding special events, product demonstrations, giveaways and educational sessions to help the country’s young leaders learn about the benefits of our global movement to change trade.