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Fair Trade for Women

This month’s issue of Fair Family is focused on how Fair Trade improves the lives of women.

by Carmen K. Iezzi, Executive Director, Fair Trade Federation

Since 1911, March has been set aside to celebrate the achievements of women. According to Fair Trade Federation research, 76% of Fair Trade production is done by women, so when you support Fair Trade, you invest in:

  • Empowering workplaces which respect and actively solicit women's opinions.
  • Capacity building to help women develop their skills and independence.
  • Fair wages that take into account the hard work needed to create quality pieces.
  • Equality between men and women and dignity for all.

When you shift your purchases to support fully Fair Trade Organizations - members of the Fair Trade Federation - you give artisans and farmers more autonomy and power to improve their own futures.

Great examples include:

  • During her career in public health, Ellen Dorsch visited Africa frequently and taught former sex workers to be hairdressers, only to find there were no jobs available. She found rehab centers where women were creating beautiful tablecloths but only finding a market in the small bazaar. She realized that an opportunity existed to improve women's lives and maintain a centuries-old art form by introducing the US to the beauty of Ethiopian textiles.

    Since opening Creative Women (CW) in 2002, Ellen has seen how consumers make a concrete difference in the lives of women in Ethiopia, Swaziland, Afghanistan, Mali, and Senegal.  As her business grows, more women are hired in order to fill orders.  For example, CW now offers training programs in the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa for former sex-workers and works with the Ethiopian government to provide jobs in rural areas.  Through these wearable accessories and home accents, women’s creativity can change their lives.
  • Similarly, Just Coffee Cooperative changes women’s lives through their support of Fundación Entre Mujeres (La FEM) in Nicaragua. More than simply a consortium of 132 coffee cooperatives, La FEM was founded in 1996 to work on issues of domestic violence, women's health, education, and job training. It serves as an autonomous organization for rural women who seek to challenge the traditional models of land ownership and advocate for women’s rights.

    By working with Just Coffee, the women not only receive $1.56 - $2 / lb for their coffee, but also access to capacity-building, support transitioning to organic production, and other benefits. Since 2007, Just Coffee and its partners in Cooperative Coffees have purchased over 91,120lbs of beans. Through partnerships with development organizations, La FEM farmers receive training on crop diversification, processing, and postharvest techniques. They also learn business and management skills, such as the use of market-pricing information, so that they can sell their crops at the best possible time. Now, all but one of the growers in the cooperative is certified organic. Everyone's children are in school. They have even started a training center in Condega for young women to learn carpentry, construction, welding, and other tasks traditionally assigned to men, so that they will never be dependent on men to build and maintain their houses. The coffee consumers enjoy every morning has reshaped these women’s lives and supported their struggle for equality.

Shifting your everyday purchases to Fair Trade will change women’s lives around the globe. It’s easy: just order online from Just Coffee’s and Creative Women and other FTF organizations and you can help make life dramatically better for women and families throughout the world.

The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is the trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to Fair Trade. For more information and to find more fully Fair Trade organizations, visit

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