By Maria Tereza Batista
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, the WFTO is celebrating women’s rights and promoting gender equality at workplaces. Gender equality is a high topic on the political agenda of the EU and important steps to end discrimination against women have been taken in the last 25 years. However, women are still subjected to unequal treatment, having to overcome barriers to gender equality in almost every aspect of their lives. In the workplace, the lack of access to leadership positions, occupational gender segregation and unequal payment are still one of the main constraints experienced by women around the world.
The economic empowerment of women is commonly understood as an important factor to economic growth and a prerequisite for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). An increase in female labour force participation, results in a faster economic development as reported by the Unwomen. In the primary sector, women represent almost half of the labour force but own less than 20% of the land. They are also deprived from control of resources used for agriculture, such as seeds, water, technology, innovation and financial services, which makes them severely disadvantaged with regards to their input.
In Europe, in spite of the increase in the participation of women in the labor market, they are still underpaid in comparison to men. The gender pay gap varies greatly among EU-members but a women’s hourly gross income is on average 16.3% below than men’s[M1] . Furthermore, more than 25 per cent of women in the EU report that care and other family and personal responsibilities, versus only three per cent of men. Therefore, women continue to earn lower salaries and pensions, be underrepresented in decision-making roles and they are the ones who perform the majority of unpaid household work.
The Fair trade movement seeks to end injustices by empowering communities and creating tools for women to regain their financial independence and control over their lives. The WFTO-Europe is committed to fight against gender inequalities at the workplace as it fully acknowledges the potential of women and their need for economic empowerment. Firms in Europe, in every sector, can contribute to a more equitable society by promoting policies and ensuring that workers are paid in due proportion, as well as their producers in the South.
Achieving gender equality requires a gender-based approach in designing public policies and a long-term commitment of companies in addressing the issue at workplaces must be integrated alongside with Fair Trade practices that provide capacity building opportunities for women, in the North and the South.