Gelkha Buitrago is a Policy Manager at Fairtrade International and leading our work on gender. Her work recently took her to meet Fairtrade producers in Peru.
It’s interesting that arguments in favour of gender equality and women empowerment are moving away from “it’s the right thing to do” to “it’s the smart thing to do”. A recent World Bank flagship report on gender equality is just one of many to highlight how equal access to land and agricultural inputs for women can make a big impact on the community, both socially and economically.
Last week I got to see first hand how “smart” it is to invest in women. Around 40 members of Fairtrade producer organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean got together in Lima, Peru and exchanged their personal experiences in achieving greater gender equality and empowerment of women in their communities.
It’s not really easy to define or describe an “empowered woman” but you definitely know one when you see one. Rosa Guilcapi Caiza is of the many I had the privilege to meet in Lima. Rosa is part of Jambi Kiwa , a coop of mainly indigenous woman that produces medicinal and aromatic plants in the rural highlands of the Ecuadorian Andes (known as Chimborazo). Rosa was eager to learn from other women leaders in the Fairtrade movement and made her way to the workshop in spite of the long journey and family illness. I think we all learnt a lesson in humility and determination from her that day.
Combining traditional and modern agricultural methods, Jambi Kiwa has been successfully exporting both Fairtrade and organic products to international markets. Through leaders like Rosa, Jambi Kiwa is providing dignified working and educational opportunities for native women, most of whom are illiterate (as was Rosa herself) and face discrimination and racism. As one member of her cooperative puts it “We have not only learnt a trade, we have also become protagonists of our own development.”
These stories are not limited to Latin America, either. Across the ocean in Africa, for example, women at a Fairtrade coffee cooperative in the Congo are receiving training on gender equity, and premiums to invest in women’s projects. Read more here…
The task is far from over. Gender equality won’t happen overnight and the challenges ahead are enormous. But from seeing the determination of these women and their achievements against the odds, the potential for change is greater.
I’m looking forward to finding more ways for Fairtrade to facilitate gender equality and women empowerment, and to build a regional and global strategy together with strong women and men like these in Lima.
Many thanks go to the people and organizations who supported and jointly organized this event: CLAC (Coordinadora Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Pequeños Productores de Comercio Justo), CNCJ Perú (Coordinadora Nacional de Pequeños Productores de Comercio Justo de Perú), JNC (Junta Nacional del Café), FLO Centroamérica, FOS - Socialist Solidarity and Irish Aid