11 October, 2018

International Day of the Girl Child 2018

School children from Vasudha cooperative
by Iain Strachan

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a choice many girls around the world have never been offered, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Among Fairtrade’s commitments is a determination, together with the farmers and workers we partner with, to make progress towards realising the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

One of them is SDG 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. SDG 5 targets achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. These goals naturally go hand in hand, given the wealth of evidence demonstrating the importance of girls receiving an education.

On International Day of the Girl Child, we want to highlight how your Fairtrade choices are contributing to these objectives and helping to make the lives of girls and women better all over the world.

WHERE TO START? 

Well, let’s hear from Bethy Juzga Gargart, a member of the Acopagro cocoa-growing cooperative in Peru and a mother of five.

“If you stay as you are, if you don’t develop yourself as parents, then your kids won’t look for improvement either. My children have had opportunities, they have worked abroad, travelled to big cities. And some are studying right now.”

Bethy is just one example of how increasing women’s participation in decision-making leads to practical, positive impacts in family lives and rural communities. 

The findings of a recent report indicate that the Fairtrade Premium, an additional sum of money which goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers, is being invested in health, education and essential local services, as well as in projects specifically benefiting women and girls.

And preliminary findings of a long-term Fairtrade monitoring exercise, begun in 2016, also show a positive correlation between the education level of farmers and their awareness of child rights. That awareness is borne out in the fact that nearly half of the 2016 Fairtrade Premium expenditure linked to SDG 4 was dedicated to improving child education services within communities, including school buildings and infrastructure, and school services covering provision of meals, books, computers or uniforms.

To make sure we stay on track with this mission, we created Fairtrade’s 2016-2020 Strategic Framework on Gender Equality. We will continue to systematically mainstream gender throughout Fairtrade operations, from the Fairtrade Standards to business partnerships, awareness raising and advocacy.

By 2020, we aim to increase women’s participation in Fairtrade certified small-scale farmers’ and hired labour organizations; empower more women and girls with equal access to the benefits of Fairtrade, and address the systemic issues hampering the realisation of greater gender equality in Fairtrade value chains.

WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE IN PRACTICAL TERMS?

Take the Fairtrade certified cooperative of Vasudha in central India.

A registered society of smallholder cotton farmers, Vasudha comprises 1,524 individual members spread across 47 villages, of which 1,417 are men and 107 are women, and where efforts are being made to enrol all the girls in the community in local schools.

A school girl from the Vasudha cotton cooperative in IndiaIn Gujarat, a rural region on India’s west coast, we met Anjena, who has been able to go to school thanks to the increased income her family have received as members of a Fairtrade certified cotton cooperative. Older women are also being elected as cooperative leaders, providing positive role models for girls and the wider community.

On the other side of the world in Peru, the long-term benefits of Fairtrade cooperative membership to the quality of life for women and girls were clearly visible during our visit in August.

Bethy has been a member of Acopagro for two decades, boldly embracing the opportunities provided by partnering with Fairtrade to become a respected and knowledgeable figure in the local agricultural community.

When we met Bethy, one of her daughters was finishing the studies made possible by her parents’ increased income as part of the cooperative.

Yolita, another member of Acopagro, wants her youngest daughter to follow in the footsteps of five older sisters in getting an education.

Maria Cera, a coffee farmer from Peru, and her familyAnd Maria Cera, a coffee farmer in the Acropassi cooperative pictured in the centre of the image above, was proud to have seen her eldest daughter Patti graduate from her accounting qualification, while sister Sofia was on vacation from her sociology studies during our visit.  

Bethy, Yolita and Maria are examples of the difference women and girls can make to farming communities and to the future of their families when given the opportunity.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

If you’re inspired by these stories, remember: You have the power to change the world every day by choosing to buy products - such as coffee, chocolate and tea - with the Fairtrade Mark.

Your choices can empower girls and women to participate as equals, control their futures, and invest in their communities. Now that’s a cause we can all get behind.

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