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Buying Fairtrade supports women across the world

Aoife looks at how your consumer choices and buying Fairtrade has a positive impact on women's lives


Written by Aoife McMahon and posted in voices


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Being young people in an increasingly progressive world, we have all come in contact with the feminist movement in some way or another. I personally have been shown Emma Watson’s speech on gender stereotyping to the UN four times in school. I’ve seen countless images of Michelle Obama holding up a sign with #MeToo splashed across the front, or Kamala Harris addressing the world as the first female vice president in the United States.

While these all represent extremely noble and necessary battles, ‘feminism’ as we have been taught appears to exclude millions of women across the world in my opinion. Away from the relative progress made by Ireland and some other countries, the challenges faced by women across the globe are shocking. As I sit sharing inspirational “the future is female” Instagram posts, it is easy to forget the inevitable relationship that my consumer habits have with this inequality.

Issues facing women’s across the globe

Women make up roughly 43% of the agricultural labour force and produce the majority of the world’s food supply. Yet they remain disproportionately affected by low wages, discrimination, and exploitation. They are paid far less on average than their male counterparts and are more likely to be hired for temporary jobs without proper contracts while being excluded from taking out loans and receiving bonus payments. Female farmers often work alone in fields, leaving them vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse. Over 55% of female flower workers in Ecuador having suffered some form of sexual harassment.

With little access to assets of their own and no say in decision-making, many women have no way of escaping this poverty trap. So the problems continue. Many women not only uphold demanding and labour intensive farm or factory jobs, but they are usually fully responsible for looking after their children and carrying out household tasks. This can include walking miles to fetch water every single day. Just think how busy the adults in our lives always are and they have the help of time-saving devices, running water, and kitchen appliances!

Fairtrade international coffee

Why does buying Fairtrade help?

Fairtrade acts as a moral lighthouse in this dark and troubled sea. Their strict standards for Fairtrade certified farms ensure that female workers have guaranteed access to healthcare, certain job rights, and freedom from harassment. The workforce must elect a committee representative to access money from the Fairtrade Premium - an extra amount of money on top of the selling price which workers can use to invest in community projects of their choice. Many of the initiatives created by these funds, such as access to daycare and cooking stoves, provide desperately needed domestic support for working women.

Fairtrade also has separate projects aimed specifically at fighting gender inequality. The Women’s School of Leadership in Guatemala trains women to take on leadership roles. The Growing Women in Coffee project in Kenya encourages the transfer of coffee bush ownership from men to women.

Support women with our shopping habits

There’s something you can do too. While perhaps not as exciting as marching down the streets defiantly at a protest, you can ‘vote with your wallet’ for the kind of businesses you want to see in the world. To put it another way - you can buy Fairtrade. Yes, I know ethical consumerism can be extremely difficult. However, the more you educate yourself on these issues, the easier you’ll find it is to choose ethical alternatives. A bar of Lidl’s new Fairtrade chocolate brand ‘Way to Go’ only costs €1.99 - a small price to pay for upholding human rights and support women across the world.

In the long run, we need to shift our mindset so that when we buy a product, we aren’t just thinking about how delicious or stylish it is, but the people (specifically women) behind it. For now, just make sure you look out for the blue and green Fairtrade symbol wherever you go, remembering that Fairtrade products extend beyond bananas and chocolate. They include our clothes, sports equipment and even beauty products. Use the money and privilege that you may have to make a positive impact on the world.

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Published March 9th2021
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