Gender equality

Around 60-80 percent of the world’s food is grown by women. Yet they often don’t own the land and see little of the profit made from it. Fairtrade works to address this gender gap.

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Bintou, a member of ECOJAD cocoa cooperative in Côte d'Ivoire.
Image © Éric St-Pierre

Studies show that while women’s role in farming has increased over time, women have less access to resources such as land, inputs, information, credit and training. This in turn reinforces patterns of female disempowerment.

According to our data, women make up just 25 percent of the smallholder farmers and workers involved directly in Fairtrade. However, these figures do not account for the many women who work the land that is owned by their husbands or other male relatives. Women are historically also often overlooked when it comes to leadership roles. The challenge is to make sure that these women are represented and their voices are heard.

How Fairtrade addresses gender equality

Fairtrade is helping to challenge the gender gap, enabling women to stake their claim and succeed on their own terms.

Fairtrade Standards are designed to prevent gender inequality, increase female participation and empower more women and girls to access the benefits of Fairtrade.

Requirements for producer organizations include:

  • No discrimination on the basis of gender or marital status

  • Zero tolerance of behaviour that is sexually intimidating, abusive or exploitative

  • No testing for pregnancy when recruiting workers

  • Programmes to support disadvantaged and minority groups, such as women

  • Developing a gender policy, over time

We are also working beyond the Standards to increase women’s role in Fairtrade producer organizations and to ensure they receive equal benefits.

  • Producer networks are rolling out women’s schools of leadership, enabling women to learn business, negotiation and finance skills. Many of these women go on to take on leadership and committee positions within their cooperatives and communities.

  • Many Fairtrade Premium projects directly benefit women, enabling changes to decision making and governance structures in certified producer organizations, and improving economic opportunities. For example, the Del Campo nut cooperative in Nicaragua uses their Fairtrade Premium to support women’s emerging businesses.

  • Many producer organizations are undertaking gender analyses of their organizations and piloting new gender equality programmes, gender committees and policies.

  • Through advocacy work and collaboration with trade unions and NGOs we are pushing for gender equality and interventions to enhance women’s well-being and empowerment.

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Elizabeth harvesting coffee cherries from her farm.
Image © David Macharia

If a woman is empowered...

Fairtrade’s Growing Women in Coffee project encouraged the transfer of coffee bushes to women coffee farmers in Kenya, enabling them to earn an independent income for the first time.

300 women from Kabngetuny Cooperative received training on good agricultural practices, and have increased the yield and quality of their coffee as a result. They also have benefitted from the construction of ‘green energy’ biogas cook stoves for their homes, reducing exposure to smoke and the time they spend collecting firewood. Now they have launched their own women’s label coffee: Zawadi coffee, which is Swahili for “gift”.

“If a woman is empowered, then the house will also be empowered, economically and socially” says Elizabeth, member of Kabngetuny coffee cooperative.

We are seeing incremental improvement, but there is much more work to do to bring about true gender equality. With your support for farmers and workers like these, expressed each time you enjoy a Fairtrade product, you enable Fairtrade and its partners to continue pressing for progress.

This is the short-form version of 'Growing our cocoa, raising our voices', a film made by women cocoa producers in Côte d’Ivoire.

Strengthening women’s place in the communities where Fairtrade works begins with understanding the challenges they face. Female members of ECOOKIM, a Fairtrade certified cocoa cooperative in the Ivory Coast, are stepping up to share their stories on film. But in this project, they’re not just subjects – they also produced and directed the short films.

See the films in English and French on Vimeo