Released in time for Women’s History Month, Fair Trade USA’s latest report is a position paper spotlighting gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment.

The nonprofit said women play a critical role in major sectors across the globe. “Women make up 80 percent of the workforce in global garment supply chains, as well as more than 80 percent of the seafood processing sector and half of all workers in the seafood industry more broadly,” the report noted. “Women play a major role in the agricultural sector as well. Globally, one in four women is engaged in agriculture. It is estimated that women in rural communities make up the majority of the agricultural labor force, especially in subsistence farming, and that across low-income countries, women make up about 43 percent of the broader agricultural labor force.”

But women face a host of challenges, which the report’s authors said are often “perpetuated by cultural norms and/or government policies.” This includes barriers to economic opportunities, such as laws that prevent women from opening a bank account or owning land. “The World Bank reports that 75 countries still restrict women’s rights to own and/or manage assets,” the report noted. “Less than 20 percent of landowners globally are women.”

Within agriculture, the report stated that it is common “for men to represent the family within a cooperative and at the market, while women undertake the bulk of the labor on the farm. Female workers are often subject to harassment and assault, which can be exacerbated in situations where women work alone in isolated areas such as in fields.”

In response, Fair Trade USA is taking a three-pronged approach to gender in its Fair Trade Certified program: empowering women, creating safe spaces and recognizing gender equality as a driver of change. Each has specific measures that can be done. For example, for creating safe spaces for women, the report’s authors suggest prioritizing the prohibition of discrimination in the workplace, in hiring, in wages and with promotions as well as increasing access to training and services.

In its concluding statement, Fair Trade USA said it recognizes gender equality and women’s empowerment “as core to its model and as essential for sustainable change and impact. The organization is committed to continuous improvement in its approach to understanding the role of women in fair trade supply chains, to ensuring the model benefits and uplifts women and to drive towards the vision of gender equality.”

The nonprofit also said it was calling on its partners “to collaborate on the journey towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. It also calls on partners to celebrate progress along the way by recognizing the value women bring to supply chains, businesses and workplaces, as well as families and communities.”

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