Economic Empowerment Through Fair Trade
As a child, I knew little about fair trade. I remember seeing the Fairtrade logo on bars of chocolate in my local Coop and I knew that this meant something good, but I wasn’t quite sure what. Now, as an adult, I am far more aware of the importance of fair trade, and what makes those chocolate bars special.
Fair trade plays a significant role in the economic empowerment and sustainable development of marginalised communities. Like many people, I am saddened that fair trade is something we have to campaign for and work towards – it should just be the norm. Thankfully, it is becoming of increasing importance to consumers, helping to support the move away from exploitative trading markets.
More and more, economic empowerment initiatives are replacing traditional aid interventions as a means by which to relieve poverty and advance prosperity. Conventional aid can create a dependency culture and reduce the accountability of recipient country governments to support their citizens. It also often takes a top-down approach, in which western ideas of development are imposed on local communities.
But, as is now commonly recognised, in order for development to be sustainable, it needs to empower people, taking into account local knowledge, narratives and experience. Economic empowerment helps to ensure financial independence and can improve access to education and healthcare, and fair trade is a way in which to advance the economic empowerment of marginalised communities.
Fair trade means that those in developing countries, who are producing and selling their goods to companies in developed countries, get a fair income for these goods. The recognisable Fairtrade logo tells us, as consumers, that the farmers who have produced the raw materials for products – the cocoa for our chocolate, or the cotton for our t-shirts – have sold their goods in fair trading conditions.
The principles of fair trade mean that producers can engage with companies on fair terms, receive fair payment for their goods and work in safe conditions. Moving away from exploitative trading markets helps to ensure that producers benefit from income sustainability, thus supporting economic empowerment and helping to enable sustainable development.
Whilst we are still a long way off from living in a world in which all trade is fair, we can all do our bit by making informed choices when it comes to the goods we buy. And, as consumers, we have a responsibility, and the power, to advocate for a world in which fair trade is the norm.