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Equality, 300 Years Away: How Trade Closes That Gap

Equality, 300 Years Away: How Trade Closes That Gap

“The struggle for gender equality is a reality for women everywhere,” said Sima Bahous, the UN Women Executive Director in a recent speech, “…equality on the current trajectory is 300 years away.”

International Women’s Day is March 8, a poignant day for Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade nonprofit retailer founded by a woman working hard to speed up gender equality.

We’ve been at this for 76 years, looking to improve the working conditions of artisans around the world, largely women, and increasing their pay through ethical trade. Still, there’s work to do. It’s easy to be discouraged—300 years is daunting.

It’s just as easy to be inspired to act when you see what change looks like.

Kamala Madhu, an artisan in Bangladesh, attended a gender equality training program with her husband, provided and facilitated by our artisan partner, Prokritee.

Participants discussed men’s and women’s typical roles. Asking questions about who is expected to clean and cook. Who is expected to earn money for the family? They discussed how these roles can limit one another, and what support for each other could look like when we shift our thinking. “Due to the training, I have seen a change in my husband’s attitude. And, seeing him, our neighbors are also becoming more open-minded,” explained Ms. Madhu. “My kids liked the training. They encourage my husband to help me so that I can take some rest.” Rest is revolutionary, especially for women who are often expected to do it all.

I think of my husband, my daughters and my son—how what I do, and what I say lands. How my actions impact my family and our wider one.

I think about this, what this means where I live, and what shifts I can do to make a difference.

We have a small downtown in our village. I approached a shop I love and told them they could buy fairly traded products through Ten Thousand Villages’ wholesale channel. Now, they carry our soaps.

You can do this too—spread the word—help create the world we want to live in, together by bringing fairly traded products to your town.

We can do this. We can speed the change together,


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