27 Sep 2019

Giving a voice to girls and women

An interview with Florence Wanjiru Wanjiku on how the Fairtrade Premium helps to empower women mentally, economically and socially

2019 Florence Wanjiku 870
Florence at an event with Fairtrade Africa
Image © Florence Wanjiru Wanjiku

Many of the roses we receive from loved ones or give to others come from Kenya. To fill our shops with fresh flowers, workers often work for low wages, under precarious working conditions and with few future prospects for their children. Fairtrade can make the difference.

Florence Wanjiru Wanjiku is a Human Resources Assistant at the Flamingo Flower Farm in Naivasha, Kenya. Her mother worked as a flower worker at the same farm for many years. With the Fairtrade Premium, she was able to finance Florence's education and give her daughter a voice in the fight for more gender equality.

Florence Wanjiru Wanjiku attended the FairCongress 2019 in Cologne, Germany. Read on to gain insight into how Fairtrade has impacted her life and Florence’s opinions about the importance of the empowerment of women. For more information about the congress visit www.fairkongress2019.de.

Fairtrade: Florence, your mother works at a flower farm. Was there a moment when you noticed that it makes a difference that your mum works on a Fairtrade-certified farm?

Yes, the fact that my mum was working at a Fairtrade certified farm made life easier. It gave me hope when it was time for me to join high school. Since the fee was too high and a huge burden for my mum to fully cater, she approached the Fairtrade Premium Committee. They offered to provide 50 percent of the school fees with the Fairtrade Premium. She could afford to pay the remainder. After high school, I had the chance to study at university. My mum was able to enrol me, because the Fairtrade Premium covered my full tuition fees.

The Premium has indeed changed lives. The majority of workers’ children could have otherwise not acquired quality secondary and tertiary education.

I can’t thank Fairtrade enough, as it has completely changed my life and the lives of many humble families who could not have afforded education. Fairtrade has empowered workers and their families to combat poverty. It has strengthened our position in society.

After completing my Diploma course, the flower farm where my mum was working offered me training and employment as a Human Resources Assistant. I acknowledge this achievement to have been a result of the support I received from the Fairtrade Premium.

As a young woman working in human resources, which changes are necessary to achieve gender equality?

I would greatly focus on empowerment, especially for girls and women. Women need to be empowered mentally, economically and socially. There needs to be a change in the mindset of women – to believe that they can equally achieve what men can achieve. This is possible by changing what girls, families and society imagine girls can do. We need to give girls images and role models that expand their dreams.

There needs to be a focus on equipping women with capacity-building skills. A change in the mindset of the world is mandatory: women have the same capabilities as men and should be offered equal opportunities. Women need to be given the chance and support to excel in all areas. We need more women to take part in leadership, so that their voices can be heard. The government of any country should ensure that there is participation by women in local, regional and national legislation as empowered change agents.

Women should be offered trainings on financial management and human rights. Empowering women on the community level will enhance girls’ education. When mothers are educated to make choices in their lives, they enable their daughters as well, raising an empowered generation.

The slogan of the congress is “encountering fairness – shaping fairness”. What are your suggestions for people living in countries like Germany to shape a fair global society?

Fairtrade is one of the most recognized initiatives within the global trend towards more socially conscious consumption. People living in countries like Germany should continue to promote fair trade with their consumer behavior, because it improves the social and economic standards of producers. With more markets for Fairtrade products, Fairtrade Premiums will increase. There is a smile on the face of a worker when he or she hears about an increase in Premiums. He or she is assured that her child will continue her education without financial challenges.

Countries should empower their citizens to campaign for an international trade system based on justice and fairness. What is important is that we all try to make informed choices. We should ask ourselves: What impact does it have when I buy a Fairtrade product in an open market? We should be committed to raising awareness of how buying Fairtrade products empowers and strengthens the future of generations in countries like Kenya.

For sustainable development in developing countries like Kenya, we need fairness in trade partnerships that ensure the achievement of gender equality, decent work hours, economic growth, and sustainable consumption and production.