Fairtrade International aims at promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment

Recurrent banner - 1200 contacts

Towards a better and equal world

The tea and coffee sectors are committed to changing women’s condition for the better, worldwide. Notably, the intention of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is to empower women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives, and to encourage and recognize the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry (International Women’s Coffee Alliance, n.d.). Women, in fact, play a fundamental role in agriculture – let’s just consider that 60 to 80% of what we eat is produced by women farmers (FairTrade Italia, 2021) – but they keep struggling for access to resources, land, information, education, loans and technical assistance (Oxfam International, n.d.). Several companies and institutions are now committed to changing this situation for the better, and to going towards a better and more equal world.

The role played by FairTrade in promoting gender equality

Fairtrade International is becoming more and more attentive to gender equality and to women’s empowerment. By signing the Declaration for Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which aims at promoting sustainable development in Europe, Fairtrade International underlines its social, economic and environmental mission (FairTrade Italia, 2020). The obstacles women find in their way sadly result in gender inequality in agriculture, but Fair Trade is committed to empowering women farmers by supporting them and promoting education. As a result of Fairtrade Gender Strategy 2016-2020, NAPP had launched its Gender Leadership school in 2019, designed for women from Fairtrade small-scale producer organizations to increase their participation in the management and governance of their communities, organizations, and households. The Gender Leadership school aims at the development of the participants’ skills in managing and applying human rights provisions on gender issues in their environment (FairTrade Network of Asia & Pacific Producers, 2020).


Women leaders

Many powerful young women play a key role in agriculture and in promoting a more gender-balanced world. They often share a strong determination to rise in a male-dominated society that often holds women back. In this way, they succeed in overcoming the barriers they might encounter and in rising to the challenges that may come their way. One of them is Dharshani Raja Manikkam, an aspiring and inspiring youth leader.

Source: FairTrade Network of Asia & Pacific Producers, n.d.

Dharshani Raja Manikkam and her battle for women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka

Dharshani Raja Manikkam is a young woman who wishes to become a good youth leader, in order to inspire others by setting herself as an example in the Tea sector in Sri Lanka. She was born in a very humble family and realized at an early age that her family was experiencing hardships for economic reasons. This is why she decided to do her best and to study hard, so that she could help her family to improve their living conditions. After her studies, she was able to get a job in the Idulgashina Bio Tea Garden and succeeded in saving money to renovate her family’s house. Dharshani aims at attaining leadership at various levels, and has gradually started to take up more relevant roles at work (FairTrade Network of Asia & Pacific Producers, n.d.).

Dharshani and the NAPP Gender Leadership School

Dharshani Raja Manikkam fights for gender equality in education, and she gladly accepted the offer to represent her estate at the NAPP Gender Leadership School, where she has trained 20 members, 15 of whom were women. The organization she works with now has 100 members aged 16-26 and offers women’s empowerment programs. Dharshani is personally committed to training youth to become leaders by supporting them and encouraging them to overcome their fears (FairTrade Network of Asia & Pacific Producers, n.d.). Finally, Dharshani is engaged, and is engaging more and more people, in her fight for gender equality, human rights and environment safeguards.

Change for the Better

Lavazza, one of the most famous Italian roasteries, has just launched on Instagram the international reportage Change for the Better. This international project relates to the paintings of Saddo, an artist who presents the portraits of seven women committed to preparing a better future, thanks to their brave attitude and to their involvement in the sustainable development projects promoted by the Lavazza foundation (Fondazione Lavazza). This reportage collects seven stories of women’s empowerment. Each story is unique, but they all share an inspiring element, as these stories can inspire women worldwide through the universal language of art. The end purpose is gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Ambrosía in the Dominican Republic, Carmen in Colombia, Doña Rina in Honduras, Isabel in Guatemala, Nadia in Peru, Pinki in India and Sheila in Uganda – they have all changed their lives and actively contributed to the community they live in, proving that women’s empowerment and sustainable development can create a shared value within the collective dimension. The coffee farming world, from where these seven women come, includes 12.5 million producers organized in family businesses. Women’s contribution is often underestimated or denied, even though women play a fundamental role in the community’s cohesion and in the natural resources’ management. Up to 70% of the bean-collecting work is done by women, but only 20% of them own the land they work (Lavazza, n.d.) Their stories deserve to be told, so that we can really go towards a better and more equal world.

Make sure you take a look at these women’s portraits and you check the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA).


FairTrade Italia. (2020). Parità di genere, una firma per standard più attenti alle donne. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from FairTrade Italia website: https://www.fairtrade.it/blog/donne/parita-di-genere-una-firma-per-standard-piu-attenti-alle-donne/

FairTrade Italia. (2021). Donne a scuola di consapevolezza con Fairtrade. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.fairtrade.it/blog/donne/donne-a-scuola-di-consapevolezza-con-fairtrade/

FairTrade Network of Asia & Pacific Producers. (n.d.). Meet Our Youth Leader. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.fairtradenapp.org/dharshani-raja-manikkam/

FairTrade Network of Asia & Pacific Producers. (2020). Gender leadership school 2nd and 3rd phase training. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from Latest news website: https://www.fairtradenapp.org/gender-leadership-school-2nd-and-3rd-phase-training/#:~:text=Fairtrade’s Gender Strategy places special,mainstreaming in the Fairtrade system.

Horeca. (2021). Change for Better: Lavazza celebra le donne con l’arte. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.horecanews.it/change-for-better-lavazza-celebra-le-donne-con-larte/ (Change For Better Picture Credits).

International Women’s Coffee Alliance. (n.d.). The IWCA Mission. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from Strong women = Strong Coffee website: https://www.womenincoffee.org/

Lavazza. (n.d.). Change For Better – Local Women Leaders. Retrieved March 16, 2021, from Change For Better website: https://www.lavazza.com/en/landing/change-for-better.html

Oxfam International. (n.d.). Empowering women farmers to end hunger and poverty. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from The power of people against poverty website: https://www.oxfam.org/en/empowering-women-farmers-end-hunger-and-poverty