In many developing world contexts, women often face a distinct disadvantage when it comes to overcoming poverty. While the reasons may vary from region to region, this disadvantage is often rooted in long held patriarchal beliefs and gendered assumptions. This problem is only heightened when resources are already limited, like they are in the developing world. In these regions, women are often excluded from key industries and denied an education. Instead of seeking work, women are encouraged to tend to the home and community. In addition, women often have less access than men to important community resources such as medical care, credit, and career training.
When women are offered few resources and few opportunities for their voices to be heard, they have little ability as individuals to improve their means. Yet they have the potential to make an extraordinary impact on their households and communities if given the chance. They’re often tasked with the society sustaining responsibilities of rearing children, tending to crops, and providing clean water. If given the proper information and adequate resources, women make immediate improvements that serve as building blocks for future growth.
When considering sustainable aid, human rights organizations and fair trade companies seek to break down traditional employment barriers by offering impartial, equal opportunity employment. Fair trade jobs not only provide consistent work and a livable wage, they create an infrastructure that empowers women through training, educational opportunities, childcare, microloans, team building, and savings match programs. They give women independence and they give them a safe space for voicing concerns. In the long term, they help balance the power between male and female, making it possible for societies to function for the benefit of everyone.
But how do we ensure that fair trade opportunities are truly fair? How can we, separated by hundreds or thousands of miles from fair trade co-ops, provide opportunity without encouraging dependence?
A successful fair trade operation relies on strong local leadership. Jesus' Economy partners with fair trade cooperatives around the world who are based in this impoverished communities. These cooperatives have relationships with fair trade artisans in the community. They're on the ground with them, guiding them, helping them, and watching them succeed.
Likewise, Jesus’ Economy’s Empowering Women program in Bihar, India relies on local representatives to organize community projects, provide training, and spread the message of Christ’s redemptive love. It’s a fair trade model with the potential for longevity—for positive, global change.
Fair Trade empowers women, thereby empowering communities. Empowered communities can change the world!
We as Christians have an obligation to support and promote fair wages and safe working conditions for all, to build up our sisters and brothers, to walk beside them on this rocky path of life.*