Gender Workshop at UN Conference Sparks Discussion

06 September 2011



The inspiring story of SOPACDI, a Congolese coffee cooperative profiled here, and the acknowledgment of the important role of women as consumers in ethical trade set the scene for a workshop hosted by Fairtrade International and Fairtrade Africa at the UN 64th annual UN DPI NGO Conference in Bonn. The theme of this year’s event, held in Bonn Germany, was “Sustainable Lives: Responsive Citizens.”

It was apparent that Fairtrade and gender topics were of great interest to attendees as the three panelists, Gelkha Buitrago, Louise Luttikholt and Janet Momsen, needed to use microphones to reach the standing room only crowd and the people spilling into the hall.

Conversation focused on how Fairtrade could play a bigger role in meeting Millennium Development Goal 3: Promoting gender equality and women empowerment. While women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries (FAO 2011), their contribution to agricultural production varies depending on specific crops, type of agriculture, social status, cultural attitudes, household structure and differences in property rights and land ownership. In most cases they face more severe constraints than men in accessing resources, markets and services.

A declaration was developed at the conference that will be presented to the UN General Assembly. Fairtrade made important contributions to the declaration. The following were included in the last publicly available draft:

  • Call upon governments to promote mutual supportiveness between trade and sustainable development and environmentally-friendly and fair trade products;
  • We acknowledge that sustainable consumption, in particular, needs to consider the minimization of the environmental impact of purchasing decisions and the maximization of the social impact of our purchases.
  • By 2020, the majority of the world’s goods and services are procured by governments from sources certified by objective third parties as sustainably produced.
  • A sustainable and humane food system should promote food sovereignty of communities, empower small-scale food producers in food and agricultural governance, and also encourage local production and distribution infrastructures with equal opportunities for men and women farmers and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all, while at the same time providing sustainable livelihoods to producers through the payment of fair prices for their products. Sustainable food systems must be based on food sovereignty and the right for small-scale peasants, women’s groups and local communities to plant, exchange their seed and knowledge.

While the workshop and conference have concluded and the declaration has been completed, the conversation continues. At Fairtrade, Gelkha Buitrago, will develop a new strategy on gender. In fact, Gelkha will hold a forum with roughly 40 women and men representing producers in Latin America in Lima on 22-23 September to learn, exchange and discuss how Fairtrade can enable increased gender equality and women empowerment. A similar workshop will take place at the end of the year in Africa.

Although the strategy is under development there is a will to pave the way forward. This strategy will be producer led and owned, impact driven and context sensitive.

If you want to join the conversation please contact Gelkha Buitrago (

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