Celebrate the Inspirational Women of Fair Trade this Mother’s Day

05/13/2012 - 3:17 PM

This year, World Fair Trade Day falls on the same weekend as Mother’s Day (May 13th), highlighting a natural connection between the two holidays and the opportunity to focus on the positive impact that Fair Trade has on the lives of so many mothers around the world. Whether through education, micro-loans, business training or democratic participation, the women who work on Fair Trade farms are empowered to play a strong role in their families, farms and communities. 

Almost two-thirds of women in the developing world work without labor rights and social protection. Women do much of the work on small farms and plantations, yet they often still face unequal treatment, discrimination and harassment. Fair Trade is a proven model that addresses these challenges and provides hundreds of thousands of women worldwide with sustainable livelihoods to care for their families and protection from gender discrimination. It also empowers women to become key players in the success of their organizations by being elected to serve on workers’ committees or even as cooperative presidents!

Fair Trade and Women Empowerment

Your choice to support Fair Trade provides women from Brazil to Sri Lanka with funds for life-saving health programs, income diversification opportunities, micro-credit, education, leadership training and more.

Here are a few of the Fair Trade social and economic guidelines that protect women farmers and workers:

  • Labor rights for all workers with special attention to the empowerment of women through training and capacity building.
  • Equally shared decision-making power. Cooperatives are required to address minority population needs, with special attention to women.
  •  Standards for the health and safety of women, including a minimum maternity leave of eight weeks on full pay, exemption from work that could be a health hazard during pregnancy or while nursing, up to nine months of nursing time, and freedom from sexual harassment.

Building a Better Tomorrow with Fair Trade

In honor of Mother’s Day, we’d like to highlight a few inspiring stories about the hardworking, dedicated, compassionate, and inspirational women of the world.  Whether it’s a single mother on a flower farm in Ecuador or a group of women pioneering a movement for women’s associations in Rwanda, these are the women who helped make Fair Trade what it is today. 

Life-Saving Healthcare

Hoja Verde Flower Farm – Cayambe, Ecuador

Let us introduce Joana Quitiaquez, a 22-year-old single mother and flower worker at the Hoja Verde flower farm in Cayambe, Ecuador. Her story is a true testament to the positive effects of Fair Trade in the region. Born into a sharecropping family with five brothers and sisters and an elderly mother, Joana knows what it means to be impoverished in Ecuador. Her mother, Maria, works on a non-Fair Trade rose farm not far from Hoja Verde. There Maria makes much less money, is often forced to work 7 days a week, never receives overtime and has developed asthma from working around greenhouse fumes and pesticides.

For Joana, Fair Trade flowers changed everything. At Hoja Verde, workers not only receive higher wages and overtime pay, they also have access to free eye exams, routine medical screenings and free child care and pediatric assistance. It was through these medical services that Joana’s life was saved. Routine exams and quality care ensured that Joana’s cervical cancer was detected and treated early on in its development. With her newfound health along with a loan from Hoja Verde’s Fair Trade premium, Joana was soon able to buy a small plot of land on which to begin building her own home. “At the other farm [non-Fair Trade], they wouldn’t have done this for me," says Joana, "but thankfully, everything turned out OK and I am still here with all of you and I continue to work.” In this case, Fair Trade provided the opportunity for Joana to begin investing in her future, in a house that was all her own.

Rebuilding with Fair Trade

Hinga Kawa Women’s Cooperative - Rwanda, Africa

A part of the Abakunda Kawa cooperative in the northern mountainous region of Rwanda, Hinga Kawa encompasses a group of women who have joined together in the wake of the 1994 genocide to establish a unified voice for their very own coffee harvest. The more than 100 members offer a support network for one another, illustrating the common thread of determination and courage that connects them. Through collaborative decision making, the women of Hinga Kawa use Fair Trade premiums to improve the quality and quantity of their beans, provide scholarships and supplies that allow children to attend school, establish alternative sources of income, and focus attention women’s issues.

"Many of us are widows or orphans [because of the genocide], and those who are married are still responsible for all of the work at home and in the coffee fields because our husbands spend the days in the villages trying to earn money.  This is why we formed Hinga Kawa; it is a way for us to sell the coffee that we grew.  It allows us to take pride in our work, and it is also a support network.  It is a time for us to come together and talk about our hardships with other women who have experienced the same challenges.  And it is a time for us to sing and dance... and laugh.  For many women, this meeting might be the only time they've smiled all day." – Female Member of Hinga Kawa Cooperative

The success of Hinga Kawa spawned a movement across the sector and now women's associations have begun organizing and preparing to create their own models of empowerment, economic and community development at all the cooperatives. You can read more about the incredible women of Hinga Kawa and their story here.

Give a Gift that Gives Back

Click here to learn more about the women of Fair Trade and the Fair Trade standards that protect these mothers, daughters, sisters and friends that work so hard to bring us the products we love. Celebrate your Mom this Mother’s Day by checking out our Fair Trade Mother’s Day Gift Guide, giving you an opportunity to choose products that guarantee rights, protections, and a better life for women workers around the globe.

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05/13/2012 - 3:17 PM
05/10/2012 - 4:00 PM