How Does Fair Trade Support Gender Justice?

How Does Fair Trade Support Gender Justice?

Each year on March 8th, conversations, events and marches reverberate around the world for International Women's Day. It is a time to celebrate women's achievements across all facets of society, yet it is also a call to action to address systemic inequality that continues to suppress women's freedoms and capacity to reach their full potential.

It is estimated that 74% of workers in the Fair Trade supply chain are women. Here in this article, I want to explore in more detail how gender justice is at the heart of Fair Trading practices. 

Last year, I spent time at Villageworks, a Fair Trade Organisation in Cambodia and had the opportunity to work on a collection of products for Fair Space, with their highly-skilled team of artisans, most of whom live with a disability. I asked CEO Anak Norm how she believed that the Fair Trade system supports women and under represented groups: 

"It has motivated me a lot to see the changes in peoples lives. I can see how so many women that we work with have developed themselves financially, developed their skills and improved themselves, they are more confident and outspoken. Through Fair Trade practices, they are empowered to say when things are not right for them. We talk openly about their wages, their concerns, the products and production techniques and how we can manage the organisation better and improve. As a woman, I also feel that I have been empowered through encouragement of mentors that have taught me a lot and I feel that I am not alone." Anak Norm, CEO Village Works

Image: Sewing Manager Hour Soklay & Sales Executive Sum Chanrean Leakena discussing recycled bag patterns. 

Here are five ways the Fair Trade system does this in practice:

1 – Economic empowerment: Fair Trade is not about charity, it is based on sustainable business model’s that provide fair, living wages, breaking the cycle of poverty for producers and farmers. The majority (74%) of workers in Fair Trade Organisations are women who often support multiple family members.

2 – Gender equity is one of the Ten Principles of Fair Trade. It ensures that women receive equal pay, are not discriminated in the workplace, have a voice in decision-making, and that there is equal balance of men and women is in leadership roles.

3 - Fair Trade Organisations provide education and training opportunities to women that lead to increased skills and earning potential, especially in regions where women may have limited access to such opportunities.

4 – Fair Trade Organisations support women’s health through access to insurance schemes, health and wellbeing programs, paid maternity leave and healthy, safe work environments.   

5 - In certain organisations, work may be flexible and can be home-based, enabling women to earn extra income while managing their family, home and farming responsibilities.

It is exciting to be a part of a system that is not just talking about gender justice, but is fully practicing women’s empowerment at it's core. Fair Trade is a holistic model in which all of the 10 Principles intersect to create a transformative trade system.  

“Gender inequality is not a singular issue that operates on its own and can therefore be solved in a one directional manner, but one that cannot be fully tackled unless all of the intersecting issues are simultaneously addressed. Without gender justice, we cannot talk about achieving trade justice, environmental justice or vice versa.” Zerrin Cengiz, World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO)

10 Principles of Fair Trade, World Fair Trade Organisation

Wishing you a happy International Women's Day, enjoy taking part in important discussions today, and throughout the year, Antonia :)

Cover Image: CEO of Villageworks, Anak Norm & Fair Space Founder, Antonia Taylor standing in front of the Ten Principles of Fair Trade, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Below: Production team at Villageworks 

All photography by Laly Bert. 

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