Trading Our Way Up: Women Organizing for Fair Trade

cover image of Trading Our Way Up, women making baskets


Trading Our Way Up details an action research project that examined the experiences of women producers in collective enterprises. The Global Trade Programme at WIEGO, in partnership with leading Fair Trade organizations and networks, worked with local organizations of women producers in seven countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America between 2009 – 2011.

The focus was on documenting, analyzing and disseminating key success factors for women engaged in Fair Trade collectives.


Through the weaving of baskets, we have been able to get money thus managed to send children to school, we are able to buy furniture. This activity has also contributed to the change for our husbands’ attitude …. This has made them be supportive of the weaving activities as women contribute to the wellbeing of the family.

~Yesekina Joseph Mwinami of Wawata Njombe, Tanzania

Project Findings

For self-employed women producers in the global South, organizing collectively and linking to Fair Trade markets offers the potential for significant economic and social benefits. Through in-depth case studies in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, Nepal, Nicaragua and Mexico, we found women producers had gained valuable sources of income by accessing local and international markets on fair terms. Additionally, collective enterprises served as a catalyst for the achievement of gender equity and social justice as women producers acquired the resources, skills and confidence to challenge discriminatory practices and take on new roles.

The findings have both practical and policy implications for international development programmes that look to support the creation of small and medium size enterprise as a route to women's economic empowerment.

With Fair Trade I have seen that we have advanced a lot, we have achieved a lot of things. We can deliver the work and receive the money, a good price, they don’t take from us or steal from us.

~ Luciana Bautista, Ya Munts’i B’ehña, Mexico

As a result of their achievements, the women have greater confidence in their abilities and higher levels of self-esteem, and have developed support networks that they can draw on in times of need. All these are important steps towards women’s economic empowerment.

Read the publication:

Read the journal article "Women Producers and the Benefits of Collective Forms of Enterprise" in Gender and Development (March 2012)