Celebrating the African Women of Fair Trade
Women across the African continent use Fair Trade to build a better tomorrow
So many special women help make Fair Trade successful here in the United States and around the world. These women farmers and workers are leading their families and communities out of poverty by selling their goods on Fair Trade terms. They are running profitable Fair Trade cooperatives, creating community programs and sending new generations of children to school. Without their unwavering perseverance and dedication, Fair Trade could never be what it is today. Please take a moment to help us recognize the inspiring women of our African Fair Trade cooperatives who are the champions of change within their communities and across the globe.
Rwandan women embrace a proactive approach to equality
A wonderful example of female leadership in Fair Trade is Christine Condo, the Executive Director of the Rwanda Economic Development Initiative. Christine has been Fair Trade USA's Project Consultant in Rwanda for three years now, providing support to over 35,000 small coffee farming families across the country. A degree in Agronomy with a focus on coffee production from the National University of Rwanda had a hand shaping her vision of improving coffee quality while fostering sustainable development practices.
Christine works hard to establish collaborative environments in which women are actively involved in their cooperatives' decision making processes. Through this proactive approach, she believes that empowering women to be leaders in agricultural production benefits the country's long term economic development. As a valuable capacity building tool, Fair Trade fosters self sufficiency and confidence among women, challenging cultural norms of inequality still present in many farming communities today.
Rebuilding with Fair Trade
Aside from strengthening business capacity, Fair Trade has also been a means for African women to help rebuild their communities after years of conflict and political unrest. A part of the Abakunda Kawa cooperative, 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 members offer a support network for one another,illustrating the common thread of determination and courage that connects them all together. Through collaborative decision making, the women of Hinga Kawa use Fair Trade premiums to improve the quality of their beans and provide increased economic opportunities for women.
Women among top leaders in the Ghanaian cocoa industry
Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union in Ghana is another Fair Trade cooperative that values the voice of women at every level of the organization. This past year, they elected their first female president, recognizing Christiana Ohene Agyare for her influential voice and her leadership skills. Ms Christiana Ohene's role as the head of the biggest cocoa producer cooperative in Africa illustrates how Fair Trade has played a vital role in empowering women as active decision makers within their communities.
The cooperative now enables over 45,000 small scale cocoa farmers to have a voice in the structure and governance of their cooperative. With Fair Trade practices at the heart of their business, Kuapa Kokoo continues to thrive in the cocoa market, producing the “papa paa” meaning ‘best of the best’.
Innovation in Liberia
Tired of being excluded from the most profitable sectors of Liberia's already struggling economy, thirty women came together to form the Liberian Women's Sewing Project (LWSP) in 2003. These women ultimately initiated a progressive movement to create sustainable livelihoods for marginalized factory workers in Africa.
Through Fair Trade LWSP empowers women not only as employees, but also as partial owners of the organization. Additionally, each member is enrolled in a financial education program to learn the basics of saving; for every garment they produce and sell a dollar goes directly back into the members' individual saving accounts.
Want to learn how you can support these inspiring women of Fair Trade?
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, we invite you to join us July 27th to celebrate these amazing African women of Fair Trade. Fair Trade USA and The African Network are co-hosting a FREE event in Mountain View, CA. Hear firsthand how Fair Trade USA's coffee, cocoa, and apparel projects are transforming the lives of rural farmers and their families across the continent.