Watch our International Women’s Day video to learn about how Fair Trade promotes gender equality.


On 8th March we celebrate International Women’s Day. Women play a crucial role in Fair Trade. They make up a significant proportion of workers and farmers, especially in the textile and handicrafts sector. In fact, research shows that 74% of the total livelihoods supported by Fair Trade are women. But there is more than the producers’ angle. How can Fair Trade also promote women in leadership positions? And how can we tackle the challenges of aiming at gender equality – challenges we also still face in Europe?

While many laws on women’s rights exist worldwide, implementation is very slow. Among others, cultural factors prevent women from exercising their rights. The numbers speak for themselves: Women only hold 12% of Board positions in businesses across the world, 9% of CEO positions and 24% of senior management roles.

There must be other ways – and there are! A new report published by the World Fair Trade Organisation shows that a woman working for a Fair Trade Organisation is four times more likely to achieve leadership positions or join a board than a woman working for a conventional business. Fair Trade enterprises have gender equality and women’s economic empowerment at the heart of what they do, believing that we will never achieve sustainable development if women’s full potential is not realised. In alignment with the Sustainable Development Goal 5, the 10 Principles of Fair Trade attach great importance to non-discrimination, equal rights for men and women as well as women’s economic empowerment.

Fair Trade businesses show that there is even more to gender equality than ensuring women’s employment rights and guaranteeing no discrimination at the work place. Providing training to women, making them aware of their rights and giving them access to leadership opportunities at every level can improve business performance. To achieve that, we believe that women have to be recognized as agents for change – not beneficiaries – and as key economic actors in society and the family.

The challenge to us all – governments, businesses, consumers, activists, men and women everywhere – is to change our behaviour and attitudes. Fair Trade enterprises already show us a glimpse of an economic future where businesses focus on people and planet, not just profit. Francesca Giubilo, WFTO-Europe regional coordinator, strongly believes that businesses should follow the examples of Fair Trade enterprises and implement responsible business practices aimed at ensuring gender equality: “Now is the time to do something. It’s not just today, not just for the International Women’s Day. It’s a daily fight and we need to take an action right now!

Read more about WFTO’s activities on International Women’s Day here.