Gender inequality is a major barrier to human development. It is estimated that closing the gender gap in agriculture would reduce the number of undernourished people by 100-150 million, and could increase agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent. Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand and international development organisation CARE International have joined efforts to unlock the influence of Papua New Guinean female farmers in the economic and social development of their communities.
In early May, forty-two small-scale farmers attended Fairtrade ANZ and CARE’s first joint workshop on gender equality and governance in Goroka, in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The workshop focused on issues of identity, gender equality, the values and principles of cooperation, and the roles and responsibilities of governance bodies within smallholder producer organisations. A day of reflection and assessment concluded the week, to focus on improving producer organisations’ approaches to addressing gender inequality through good governance.
The workshop marked the inception of a developing partnership between CARE and Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, launched to drive forward Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand’s strategy to address gender inequality among producing communities in the region and their supply chains. This strategy is being implemented first in Papua New Guinea with the support of the New Zealand government.
Fairtrade International’s Global Gender Strategy for 2016-2020, Transforming Equal Opportunity, Access and Benefits for All, seeks to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in producer organisations by building the power and autonomy of women and girls. The partnership between Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand and CARE will improve access to information, training and networks, with the aim to support producer organisations' efforts to reduce inequality amongst their memberships.
“Fairtrade works to tackle deeply rooted social and economic injustice. To succeed, we need strong partnerships that can improve rural communities’ positions to fight these issues. CARE’s invaluable experience and understanding of gender inequality are instrumental in shifting this historical imbalance. At Fairtrade we know that with the appropriate support, Fairtrade communities can do a lot to help women and girls to thrive,” says Molly Harriss Olson, CEO of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand.
The joint workshop was carried out in Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, home to the largest population of Fairtrade farmers in the country. As Papua New Guinea ranks 140 out of 188 countries in the United Nation’s Gender Inequality Index (GII), increasing understanding and practice of gender equality and good governance is vital to the social and economic empowerment of rural communities. Papua New Guinea’s low score in the GII is a reflection of the inequalities fostered by rigid traditional gender roles, unequal access to income, information, and training, and rooted discriminatory practices on the basis of origin, ethnicity and culture.
Inequality usually affects women more than men; in Papua New Guinea only 57 percent of women reported they could read and write, compared to 69 percent of men (HIES 2009/10). Female participation in the labour market is 70.6 percent compared to 74.1 percent for men, and 6.8 percent of adult women have reached a secondary or higher level of education compared to 14.1 percent of their male counterparts (UN, 2014).
Fairtrade smallholder farmers in Papua New Guinea have worked with Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand for over six years to improve their governance bodies and agricultural businesses. By incorporating the International Labour Organizations’ principles for cooperation into their governance structures, they have increased their understanding of democracy and participation and are open and able to identify and address gender inequality among their members and their communities.
The workshop provided the opportunity for participants to talk about traditional gender roles and to actively challenge them; one good example of this is the case of Wimsum Minewa, his daughter Yongi and granddaughter Honour. “It is nice that women were given half of the seats in the training, so my daughter had the chance to come too. While she is in the training I will babysit my granddaughter; little Honour is here with us as we couldn’t leave her at home,” stated Winsum Minewa, the Chairperson of Alang Daom Cooperative Society.
“Rural communities in Papua New Guinea and around the world have a long way to go to achieve gender equality. Together with Fairtrade, governments, the private sector and civil society, we can increase their chances to succeed,” reported Anna Bryan, Coffee Industry Support Project Manager at CARE PNG.
CARE and Fairtrade share an understanding of the need to go beyond women’s participation in activities and institutions, to challenge accepted gender norms with the aim to permanently and profoundly rebalance the unequal power distribution between persons of different genders.