empowering Indonesian womenIndonesian women made significant gains in recent years but there is still more to be accomplished. Women in Indonesia are often well educated but cultural expectations and economic and legal structures still prevent them from entering the workforce. The employment rate for Indonesian women is 55.5% while for their male counterparts it stands at 83.2%. Indonesian women’s economic empowerment needs improvement. Organizations like The Asia Foundation and U.N. Women are supporting empowering Indonesian women in the workplace.

Indonesian Women’s Participation in the Workforce

Women’s participation in the workplace revolves around cultural, structural and legal barriers. Indonesian culture expects women to stay at home to complete domestic and childcare responsibilities. Because of these cultural expectations, women are largely responsible for childcare. This means they cannot achieve their professional goals. If a mother does work, it is usually to only provide a side income for the household.

An analysis from the World Bank revealed that if Indonesia added another public preschool per 1,000 children, the participation of mothers in the workforce would rise 13%. Surprisingly, in Indonesia, more women are currently receiving tertiary education than men. Despite this, most Indonesian women still leave the labor market after marriage even though fertility rates have dropped. Women who work outside of the house after marriage still only participate mostly in informal labor.

Within the informal sector, women lack access to support systems that formal employment has. Despite more women working in the informal sector, the wage gap for women is 50%. In the formal sector, the wage gap for women is lower than in the informal sector but still concerningly high at 30%. Additionally, women often work in the retail, hospitality and apparel sectors. These are vulnerable sectors, meaning women have little job security, which leads to higher unemployment for women.

Lack of Legal Protection

Although Indonesia has progressive maternal rights regulations, other laws often restrict women from achieving economic empowerment. According to the World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2021” report, there is no law that prohibits discrimination in access to credit based on gender. Additionally, the report states that daughters and wives do not have equal access to inheriting assets from their parents and husbands. These laws can prevent women from rising out of poverty by making it difficult for women to retain economic assets.

Indonesian Women in the Workplace

Expanding women’s involvement in the workplace is beneficial for Indonesia’s entire economy. Improving Indonesian women’s economic power and standing could potentially lead to large economic growth. By closing gender employment and wage gaps, productivity will increase and economic growth will accelerate. It is reported that if women’s labor participation in Indonesia increased by 25% by 2025, it would generate an extra $62 billion and boost Indonesia’s GDP by almost 3%. Improving women’s economic standing leads to better business performance and a better economy.

Improving Indonesian Women’s Economic Empowerment

The Asia Foundation and WeEmpowerAsia aid Indonesian women in the workplace. The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit that works in 18 Asian countries, including Indonesia, to improve lives across the continent. The Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program in Indonesia partners with local women and organizations to help Indonesian women achieve economic empowerment. It has provided microloans for 42 women’s groups that have more than 1,500 women members. The Asia Foundation and these loans help Indonesian women build confidence in their economic decisions. The Women’s Empowerment Program works by empowering Indonesian women to effectively advance their development and economic success.

WeEmpowerAsia is a U.N. Women’s program that works to increase the number of women in Asia working in the private sector. In Indonesia, WeEmpowerAsia hosts its WeRise workshop. During these workshops, women entrepreneurs and workers learn how to overcome gender-related hurdles. During its first workshop in early December 2020, 41 female entrepreneurs attended. The workshops help women become more confident and assertive in economic situations.

Looking Ahead

Indonesian women face hardships and barriers to employment and economic empowerment because of cultural expectations and structural barriers. Economic empowerment for women is important for Indonesia’s economy because it generates growth. Programs and initiatives are working toward empowering Indonesian women in the workplace to ensure a better and brighter future for them.

Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

The Rise of Minimum Wage and Automation in PolandWith the increase of minimum wage and workers becoming more expensive, Poland is automating its industries and investing in technology that risks dramatically raising prices and halting job growth.

Poland’s Increasing Minimum Wage

The Law and Justice (PiS) party, which rules Poland’s government, has vowed to increase Poland’s minimum wage to 4,000 zlotys monthly. In January 2020, Poland increased its minimum wage by 15% from last year to 2,600 zlotys. PiS plans to reach its goal of increasing Poland’s minimum wage by the end of 2023. This comes from PiS’s pledge in the “politics of dignity.” The pledge’s aim is to bring buying power into Polish hands so Poland’s economic model is similar to their western European neighbors.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the series of minimum wage hikes is an investment in Poland’s future as well as an effort to increase its prosperity. Yet, the minimum wage hike brings about unwelcome side-effects. Especially the rise of Poland’s automation. Industries are implementing automation in order to shed employees and the wage increase.

Aiding Poland’s Workers

Poland plans to spend EUR 247.2 million, a total of PLN 1.1 billion, on relief for firms investing in automation over the next five years. This plan includes a tax break for entrepreneurs, allowing a 50% reduction in costs for investments in Polish automation companies. A statistic of “42 robots per 1,000 employees is definitely not enough,” admits Development Minister Jadwiga Emilewicz. The level of industrial robots in Poland is lower than in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

The relief package looks to increase Poland’s automation levels as well as its economy, which Emilewicz believes is a condition for development. The rise of the minimum wage in Poland, its highest hike ever, will bring changes in wage dynamics among low-income workers. Companies will be expected to increase their remuneration to hold onto employees.

Krystian Jaworski, the senior economist at Credit Agricole CIB, mentions Poland’s minimum wage increase will impact inflation greatly. This remains true today as inflation came in at 3.4% in December last year, well above estimates in a Reuters poll. With the rise of Poland’s minimum wage, and PiS’s plan to further increase wages, Credit Agricole estimates the enterprise sector employment will be 3.5% lower in 2024. The loss equates to approximately 200,000 jobs.

Some companies are looking elsewhere in order to curb shedding their employees. Henryk Kaminski, who runs Kon-Plast, a manufacturing company, is “thinking of redesigning to get a better manufacturing cost” by limiting its use of plastic, which fulfills the factory sector’s aim on savings.

– Danielle Lindenbaum
Photo: Flickr

Women in CubaWomen have experienced oppression at the hands of men for centuries. The world is continually reminded of this fact in current cultural and societal practices. Different nations have made progress in recent years, but this is still a common and enduring problem. However, the information dispersed regarding this topic is commonly obscured by those in charge. Women in Cuba have faced these issues head-on for decades in their fight for equal rights. The long and complex history of women’s right makes it difficult to distill the reality of the situation. However, there is potential for improvement. Here are the key things to know about this pivotal issue.

Education

Compared to other nations, Cuba may appear to be far more progressive on women’s rights. According to the Havana Times, women comprise 53% of the congressional body, and they account for 60% of college graduates. These numbers portray a clear female dominance in areas of higher education and are much higher compared to other developed nations.

Women’s Organizations

“Women’s organizations” are still not welcome in the nation. A new state constitution took effect after the 1960s Cuban revolution that barred the legalization of women’s organizations. An exception was made for the already established FMC.

The FMC, the Federation of Cuban Women, is a communist-controlled organization intended for the advancement of the women in Cuba. This is not inherently indicative of any corruption. However, women are prevented from assembling themselves and are dependent upon the state-sanctioned organization due to the lack of organizational options.

The Workplace

Societal standards are still oppressive to women. Numbers depict women moving out of their roles in the household to earn degrees and serve in the congressional body. The caveat is that women are still expected to perform all the duties that come with running a household. This includes cooking, cleaning and childcare.

This “machismo” mindset is heavily prevalent in Latin American nations. Essentially, this relegates women to the stereotypical domestic roles. This is even applied to women who are practicing doctors, lawyers and teachers. This societal standard burdens working women as well as those who choose to not enter the workforce or pursue higher education.

Discrimination in the workplace is another struggle women in Cuba must face. Women still face societal barriers in how they are compensated and employed. Female physicians and professors are typically paid the governmental base wage because most hospitals and universities are state-owned. This means that women are usually earning $30/hour in these typically high-paying fields. Further, the congressional body that women composed the majority of does not have any actual legislative power. That power is found within the Communist Party, which is only 7% female.

A Positive Outlook

The situation for women in Cuba is difficult to navigate. However, there are statutes in place to assist women in their quest to achieve equal rights within their society. For example, the constitution has an article that specifically protects maternity leave as a right for mothers in the workforce. Furthermore, the accessibility of higher education promises benefits to women of all classes that will last for generations. In essence, there is a long way to go, but that does not diminish how far the women’s rights movement in Cuba has come already.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Greece
There have been significant, recent developments in the status of women’s rights in Greece. Some Greeks excitedly look toward a future of gender equality. Others are reluctant to certain changes and are holding steadfast to tradition.

The primary debates in the fight for women’s rights are mainly between rural and urban citizens. Women in urban areas are more likely to dismiss traditional notions of domesticity and instead seek opportunities in the workforce. However, women in more rural areas still hold fast to the status quo. They are much more likely to take care of the home and children while a male partner seeks out work to provide for the family.

A Brief History of Women’s Rights in Greece

  1. 1952: Women in Greece receive the right to vote. This was significantly more recent than in other European countries, such as England, which awarded women the right to vote in 1918.
  2. 1975: Article 22 declared a requirement for “equal pay for work of equal value.” Although, some sources report Greek women making only 75% of what the average Greek man will make, in the same line of work. This gap is most often observable among higher-paying careers and/or those requiring higher education.
  3. 1983: The Greek Parliament ruled Divorce by consent, legal. Further, the long-standing tradition of dowry, which requires a bride’s family to present her future husband with a sum of money, ended as a requirement for a legal marriage.
  4. 2000-2006: The government passed major laws, such as Law 3488/2006, to protect women from workplace harassment and improve equal opportunity employment measures.

The Current Situation

Although all of these strides forward have occurred, Greek women still seem to be at a disadvantage. In terms of E.U. countries, Greece is the lowest ranking in the Gender Equality Index, with a score of 0.122. Likewise, the country’s female labor force population, as of 2019, is 44.17%. Additionally, domestic violence rates seem to be on the rise, having increased by more than 30% in the last six years.

Furthermore, migrant and Roma women are, on average, at an even worse economical and educational disadvantage. For example, the typical Romani woman in Greece will spend less than six years in school.

Recent data reports that men make up around 70% of Greece’s total workforce and 80% of the country’s Parliament. Many women in the workforce remain in low-income, service and part-time positions — with only about 33% of part-time positions belonging to men.

In contrast, Greek women have made great strides in academia. More than 50% of Greece’s citizens obtaining university degrees are female. There is hope that these well-educated women will advance in career paths and assume leadership roles. In this same vein, leadership roles are one of the primary areas in which women are currently underrepresented.

Proponents for Women’s Rights in Greece

Many people around the country are in an active fight for gender equality and women’s rights in Greece. There is an ongoing discussion to address gender stereotypes and challenge norms established within the country, in nongovernmental organizations.

The Greek League for Women’s Rights has been fighting for women’s rights since 1920. Notably, it was a strong leader in the fight for a women’s right to vote in 1952. It has also founded the Centre for Documentation and Study of Women’s Problems and is still active today, fighting discriminatory laws and practices.

The National Council of Greek Women, founded in 2008, is a nonprofit fighting for the equality of men and women. The nonprofit recently released a statement from its president who maintains that although legislatively, men and women are equals — the country still has to reach true gender equality in practice.

Katerina Sakellaropoulou became the first female president of the country in January 2020. Many saw the vote for the new president as an optimistic mark of change and growth in Greece.

With an adjustment to public opinion and the presence of female leaders such as President Sakellaropoulou, experts believe that the country is capable of combatting historical barriers to women’s rights in Greece that still affect its culture, today.

Aradia Webb
Photo: Unsplash

ride-hailing industryAccording to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the ride-hailing industry is “an ideal industry in which to examine the opportunities and barriers that women face in the sharing economy.” Using data from Uber and consultations with global experts on gender, transportation and the future of work, IFC and Accenture decided to research the impact of gender parity on the global ride-hailing economy. Their final report analyzes data from Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom to bring forth recommendations for ride-hailing stakeholders and companies across the sharing economy.

Women and the Ride-Hailing Industry

Among other findings, the IFC discovered that it is relatively easy for women to enter the ride-hailing industry compared to other sectors, and that working in the ride-hailing industry allows women to start new businesses and maintain those they currently have. Additionally, women who use ride-hailing services say that services like Uber help them accomplish household tasks such as grocery shopping, visiting relatives and dealing with healthcare needs. Women surveyed felt that using ride-share services increased their sense of independence and mobility.

Women in the Workforce

However positive these indications may seem, ride-share services must overcome certain barriers if they are to fully incorporate women into their workforce. For instance, to attract more women to both drive and use their services, ride-hailing providers must work to increase personal security. Women often cite security threats as one of their main concerns regarding the ride-hailing industry.

Additionally, gaps in digital and financial inclusion disproportionately affect women globally. This means it is more difficult for women to acquire resources needed to access the industry. These could include a smartphone or a car. Nonetheless, it was found that 40% of women would prefer a women driver when traveling alone or at night. The IFC reports that recruiting more women to become drivers in the ride-hailing industry could create a cycle that attracts more women riders. Thus, it would be in the interest of the ride-hailing industry to work to attract more women drivers. This is true not only to promote gender parity in the economy, but also to boost their own sales.

The Gender Pay Gap

A Washington Post article on Uber’s gender pay gap outlines similar barriers to women joining the ride-hailing industry. The article finds that Uber’s lopsided pay results from men’s more aggressive driving and greater experience in the industry. In addition, they also have a higher willingness to drive in unsafe, more lucrative locations. Uber drivers are paid based on time and distance. Therefore, they earn more making frequent, shorter trips, rather than fewer, longer ones. Assuming that aggressive and speedy drivers tend to be men, male drivers are positioned earn more than women. Changing payment structures in the ride-hailing industry might be necessary to reduce the discrepancy in gender pay for drivers.

Reducing the gender gap leads to national economic growth. That means it is in the interest of both private sectors and entire countries to incorporate women into their workforce. The World Bank promotes economic empowerment through the elimination of gender gaps in paid employment. Through diverse initiatives, they help ensure that economic growth is shared among men and women. The ride-hailing industry is just one example of how women’s employment benefits the entire economic circuit — from buyers and sellers to a country’s overall GDP.

Giulia Silver
Photo: o.aolcdn.com

Women in the Garment Industry
Breaking the ceiling of the minimum living cost per day remains a challenge for millions of the poorest people on the earth, especially women. Amongst the causes of poverty, the fact that women are often not part of the labor force is one of the biggest quagmires that keeps them struggling. However, one area that women in the developing world often work in is the garment industry. In fact, there are many women working in the garment industry in Bangladesh today.

Bangladesh’s garment industry’s products make up the majority of what it exports. The expansion of the garment industry is quickly pulling people out of poverty in Bangladesh. Women are the major source of labor, where they make up 80 percent of workers. One might ask whether the garment and textile industry could be a gateway for women in the rest of the world to escape poverty.

Demand for Growth

Despite the fact that international trade has recently encountered uncertainty, a report from Mckinsey pointed out that the demand for growth from major populated countries, such as India and Indonesia, will continually saturate the market. With the demand continually persisting, many expect that the supply will continue to expand as well.

Beyond Asia, many in Africa see opportunities in the rising garment industry. Case studies from the African Development Bank Group indicate that women make up a significant part of the garment industry in Africa. In Ethiopia and Cote d’Ivoire, the two major cotton cultivators in the world, 80 percent of garment workers are women. Moreover, these countries’ start-up entrepreneurs are largely women.

Lifting Women Out of Poverty

The rising figures of women in the garment industry excite people’s outlook on the economy, but this is not the final answer to lifting women out of poverty. The problems of delayed or no and low payment, forced labor, dangerous working environments and other exploitation of women pull the world’s attention and push for reform. From a global perspective, the campaign for humanitarian improvement is one major goal of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Beyond economic growth, acquiring decent work conditions, gender equality and opportunity for education matter when it comes to empowering women workers.

In Bangladesh, the international garment industry used to benefit from cheap labor because of loose legislative regulations and awful working conditions. More recently, the situation of underpayment has received challenges. For example, garment workers in Bangladesh raised their issues of low wages and poor working conditions, causing unrest and subsequently leading to Bangladesh increasing the minimum wage by 5 percent. This may seem minor, but it greatly impacted the garment industry in Bangladesh and started the process of reform. Consequential bills, including the signing of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, constantly forge the formal framework to ensure the well-being of women in the garment industry.

The development of the global garment industry is a good hammer for women to smash the wall of poverty, but they still require more. The problems rooted in the most impoverished countries are not only “money concerned.” Social injustice and gender bias also influence the liberation of women. Luckily, the action of women and their social power is opening another window for reforms and improvement.

Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Poultry Workers
Chicken is one of the most consumed meats in America. According to the USDA, estimates determine that the per capita American consumption of chicken will rise from 28 pounds per person in 1960 to 94 pounds per person in 2020. This is in contrast to the per capita consumption of beef in America, which projections determine will fall from 94.1 pounds in 1976 to 57.5 pounds per person in 2020. This certainly reflects the rising demand for broiler meat, or commercial chicken farmers breed and raise for meat production in the U.S. However, not many Americans wish to work in poultry processing factories. In response to this shortage of workers, many poultry companies use migrant workers to fill their processing lines. Recent reports suggest that these migrant poultry workers are in danger of harsh working conditions and labor exploitation.

Issues with Poultry Processing Plants in the U.S.

Although poultry processing plants use machinery, much of killing, deboning and packaging of chicken still depend on human hands. The processing rooms’ temperature is usually at 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to reduce microbial growth. However, this cold temperature makes it harder for the line workers to safely use their sharp cutting tools since their hands get stiff from the cold temperature. The factories’ demand to process chicken at a faster pace further compounds this hardship. The U.S. Department of Agriculture caps the speed of these processing lines at 140 chickens per minute. However, reports suggest that many processing plants increase their line speed in order to meet their company’s quota. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data further reflects these dangerous conditions. In addition, line workers repeat the same motion while performing their job of disassembling a chicken. Some reports suggest that 86 percent of line workers suffer from wrist pains, swollen joints and chronic pain in their hands and arms.

Migrant Poultry Workers in the U.S.

Migrant poultry workers fill the labor demand of the poultry industry. The EB-3 visa allows poultry companies to hire migrant workers. As long as a company places two want ads seeking American workers in a local newspaper and a notice on the state jobs board, poultry companies can justify hiring an immigrant instead of an American. Many migrant poultry workers, if documented, agree to what might be less-than-ideal working conditions for a promise of green-sponsorship by their employers.  Responding to this high demand, there are migration consultants outside of the U.S. who charge between $20,000 and $130,000 to help a migrant worker immigrate to America. This high fee can be a cause of poverty for many migrant poultry workers since the majority of them will make less than $20,000 a year.

According to the Human Rights Watch’s 2019 report, nearly 30 percent of meat and poultry workers were foreign-born non-citizens in 2015. Among this number, an estimated one-fourth of the migrant workers were undocumented. This visa sponsorship by poultry companies makes it harder for the migrant workers to protest against the harsh working conditions of poultry processing factories. Whether a migrant worker is documented or undocumented, the recent rhetoric of the U.S. government toward migrants is making many workers in the poultry industry nervous. In 2019, for example, accusations emerged that multiple poultry companies conspired to keep the wages down for their immigrant workforce.

Improving the Poultry Industry in the U.S.

There are many people and organizations that are striving to improve the working conditions in the poultry industry. Many human rights groups encourage the consumers to voice their dissatisfaction with the current state of working conditions in poultry processing plants. By voicing their dissatisfaction, humanitarian groups believe that this will give more power to the migrant poultry workers to voice their plights.

Tyson, one of the biggest poultry meat suppliers in the U.S., made a pledge in 2017 that it will improve the working conditions in its factories. In the pledge, Tyson stated its commitment to reduce worker injury rate by 15 percent until it reaches zero, increase employee retention by 10 percent each year and improve the transparency between the public and its factories. In 2020, the Humane Society of the U.S. and other groups sued the USDA for increasing the line speed at U.S. poultry processing plants. In its 2019 report, The Human Rights Watch encouraged the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to take charge of improving the work conditions.

The harsh working conditions and treatment of migrant poultry workers in the poultry industry certainly presents a complicated picture. Chicken is becoming America’s favorite choice of protein as it is surpassing beef in terms of per capita consumption. However, behind every piece of chicken, there are migrant workers who must face constant hardships on a daily basis. The cold temperature of the factories causes numerous physical ailments for the workers, while many forego voicing their plight in fear of deportation. The solution is not to stop eating chicken. Instead, as many human rights organizations have demonstrated, consumers must voice their dissatisfaction with the poultry industry. With the recent surge in the public interest for the working conditions of the poultry industry, many hope that better and more fulfilling working conditions are coming for the poultry workers of the U.S.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in South Africa
A report by the United Nations International Labor Organization (UNILO) reveals that about one in every five children partakes in child labor in South Africa. This contributes to the African continent’s reputation as the highest in numbers regarding child labor. Examples of explicit labor include, but are not limited to, working in agriculture for extremely low wages, working for factories in the black market or being forced into sex trafficking. The Child Labor Program of Action has defined child labor in South Africa as work by children under the age of 18 that is exploitative, hazardous or otherwise inappropriate for their age and detrimental to their schooling or social, mental, physical, spiritual or moral development. Here are 10 facts about child labor in South Africa.

10 Facts About Child Labor in South Africa

  1. Approximately 72.1 million African children engage in child labor, while 31 million are working hazardous jobs. These jobs include strenuous labor in agricultural work, mechanic work in unsanitary factories and selling their bodies.
  2. The 2016 Global Estimates of Child Labor indicates that one-fifth of all African children are child laborers. Nine percent of African children are working in hazardous jobs. Both figures are more than twice as high as any other region.
  3. In 2014, reports determined that 31,000 children of children absent from school or experiencing learning difficulties at school had suffered from work-related injuries. The number of reported injuries at work only dropped to 202,000 children in 2015.
  4. Inequality in the continent has led to high recordings of sex trafficking among female children between the ages of 8 and 16. Although people can also sell boys for the use of sex acts, records determine that people sell young girls the most. In these cases, families may sell them so they can pay off living expenses.
  5. More than 268,000 kids living in rural areas must work hard jobs in agriculture for ridiculously low wages and terrible working conditions. Earnings combined with their families’ incomes amount to less than $1.25 per day leading many families to fall below the poverty line.
  6. The unemployment rate amongst children who have completed school and those who have not is equal. This leads to fewer kids attending school and more seeking work so they can make money right away. A total of 80 percent of South African children will fail to complete high school due to the necessity of working in hazardous jobs to help their families pay off living expenses.
  7. The Survey of Activities of Young People stated that more than 120,000 children have already participated in economic affairs in 2010. Meanwhile, another 90,000 children have suffered an injury while working a job from 2011 to 2012.
  8. The International Labor Organization in 2002 launched World Day Against Child Labor. The goal is to draw attention to the practice of child labor globally and the event happens every year on June 12th. The ILO reflects on past accomplishments in minimizing child labor along with collaborating to find more solutions in compliance with the Alliance 8.7 organization.
  9. The Alliance 8.7 nonprofit organization is a global partnership to eradicate forced labor, modernized forms of slavery and human trafficking around the world. Its efforts have reduced the number of sex trafficking acts in South Africa along with working toward getting children out of hazardous working conditions.
  10. The International Labor Organization is continuing to grow the amount of Child Labor Units and National Steering Committee to eradicate child labor in South Africa by mobilizing globally and providing knowledge locally. The goal of these committees is to gain assistance from a global outreach in acquiring the right resources to eradicate child labor, provide knowledge of what child labor is, methods on how to reduce it and instigate action plans to disperse it.

These 10 facts about child labor in South Africa just scratch the surface of the dangerous realization of just how many young children child labor affects. Children are suffering life-threatening injuries, missing out on getting a proper education and working hazardous jobs for little wages. In 2017, South Africa made a significant advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government passed a Child’s Protection Act prohibiting persons convicted of child trafficking from working with children. The adoption of Phase IV of the National Child Labor Program of Action for South Africa has increased funding for the Child Support Grant to provide monthly direct cash transfers to primary caregivers who have vulnerable children. While some changes are occurring to help improve child labor laws, the South African government requires more action to minimize the harm from this list of 10 facts about child labor in South Africa. With continued advancement, South Africa should continue to expect relief and improvement over the years.

Aaron Templin
Photo: Flickr

Why people should shop fair tradeOver three years ago, Cathy Marks was hired for the managing position at the fair trade store, Ten Thousand Villages, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When the previous company she worked for, a franchising company, was sold, Marks was temporarily unemployed. During this time, she decided to look for a career in “something more meaningful.”

Having shopped at Ten Thousand Villages in the past, Marks said she was “intrigued as a customer” from the positive impact Ten Thousand Villages makes in preventing global poverty. It didn’t take long before she applied for the position. Since then, Marks is enjoying her job in the fair trade industry. She says her favorite part is telling stories about the artists to customers because the stories allow customers to make connections between specific artisans and their culture with their products.

Marks believes fair trade is necessary because it helps people in developing countries have higher standards for their communities, their homes and their educational systems. Here are 10 reasons why people should shop fair trade.

10 Reasons Why People Should Shop Fair Trade

  1. Fights Global Poverty and Hunger – Fair trade guarantees workers are paid at least a “minimum floor price,” or the amount it costs for them to produce their product. This standard ensures workers are not living in poverty, resulting in them being able to live comfortably with an income that fulfills their basic household needs such as food and clothing. On top of that, it also ensures workers have a surplus sum of money which they are able to save for future needs.
  2. Empowers Workers – Because fair trade ensures workers are living above the poverty line, workers are able to spend less time worrying about where their next meal is coming from, and more time planning for their future. Instead of depending on others for help, they have control over their own lives. They have the ability, time and resources to make choices for the good of themselves and their community.
  3. Positively Impacts Communities – On top of their wages, workers in the fair trade industry are also given premiums. Premiums are funds that workers can put toward whatever they feel will best benefit their community. For instance, workers can use premiums to better their community’s educational system, healthcare system, environment, recreational facilities or water access. This ensures better conditions and futures for workers’ communities.
  4. Ensures Safe Working Conditions – Fair trade protects workers’ basic human rights. It ensures they work reasonable hours and work in an environment that is free of harmful chemicals and substances. Marginalized and vulnerable populations are equally protected under fair trade standards. Workers are paid a wage that allows them better health and better nutrition.
  5. Prohibits Child Labor – Fair trade standards ensure no forms of child labor and child slavery are used on farms. Children under the age of 18 are then able to attend school and lead healthier lives. The fair wage gives workers the resources they need to ensure their children receive proper nutrition.
  6. Protects Women’s and Minorities’ Rights – Fair trade ensures that women and minority workers are not discriminated against. No matter the workers’ age, race, religion, gender or ethnicity, all are treated equally. All are guaranteed fair wages and ethical working conditions.
  7. Promotes Environment Sustainability – Fair trade products are created using limited amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. They are not genetically engineered and utilize the most efficient amount of waste, water and energy as possible. In addition, many fair trade products are made from recycled materials. This helps preserve our planet’s natural resources.
  8. Keeps Indigenous Cultures Alive – When people shop fair trade, they get to experience multiple cultures from across the globe without having to go overseas. Each product, whether it be clothing, coffee beans, baskets or jewelry, comes from an artisan who spent their time and talent crafting the product. Through fair trade, artisans are able to keep their culture alive, share it with others and pass it down to the younger generations.
  9. Supports Ethicality – When shopping fair trade, people make a statement about how they think employees in developing countries should be treated– with fairness and equality. They are saying they believe all farmers and artisans should be paid at least minimum wage for the products they produce and that all farmers and artisans deserve to live a comfortable, healthy life. Buying fair trade raises awareness of the issue of unethical labor tactics.
  10. Meaningful Impact – Every time someone consumes a fair trade product, they are fulfilled, since they know their purchase is helping someone across the globe live a life free from poverty.

Like Marks encourages her customers, these 10 reasons show why people should shop fair trade. By shopping fair trade, workers’ rights are protected. They are treated equally and paid fairly. They are able to attend school and live in a comfortable, healthy environment. Their cultures are kept alive. When someone shops fair trade, they are helping keep the industry alive. Through a simple Google search, people can find a fair trade store near them to shop at and join the fight.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Fair Trade Product by Emily Turner

Women-led CompaniesWhen women work, they help engage and encourage more women to get into the workforce and thus drive the cycle of helping to lift women and their communities out of poverty. A 2016 McKinsey report estimated that advancing global gender parity in economic activity by 2025 could add up to $28 trillion to the global GDP per year.

In addition to reducing poverty, a United Nations study found that businesses with a higher proportion of women executives and directors saw an increase in profits and returns on invested capital. Not only do women in business help reduce global poverty and increase the global market, but many of their companies provide services directed at those in poverty. Here are six women-led companies that give back to the poor.

6 Women-Led Companies that Help Poor Communities

  1. 10Power: CEO Sandra Kwak founded 10Power in 2016 hoping to bring power to communities without access to the electric grid. Kwak and her company work with local partners in Haiti to make renewable energy affordable and accessible for places that need it most. Only a third of the island has access to the electric grid, but 10Power hopes to change that. By teaching local installers and engineers about solar power and panel installation, 10Power give more people access to clean, renewable power.
  2. CloQ: In 2016, co-founder Rafaela Cavalcanti helped launch the app CloQ, with the mission to provide access to cheaper and easy-to-use formal nano-credit to the lower-income and unbanked population in Brazil and to include them in the formal credit system. Since CloQ caters to a poorer population who may not necessarily have financial data, their credit model is based on client evaluation, behavioral and reliability, rather than solely on financial records. The app focuses on providing micro-loans, usually around $25. As the connection and relationship between the user and CloQ grows, loans up to $150 can be awarded. As 33 percent of the Brazilian population does not use or have a bank account, this app is a great solution for taking out small loans and preventing people from falling victim to loan sharks.
  3. Laboratoria: Co-founder and CEO Mariana Costa Checa began Laboratoria in 2014 in Peru. Laboratoria’s main initiative is to provide low-income and poor women with access to education with free web-development and coding instruction. The 6 month-long boot camp focuses on front-end development and UX design. Students also learn a variety of coding languages including JavaScript, HTML and CSS. The company also helps place their graduates into jobs by hosting hackathons to connect companies with students. More than 1,000 women have successfully completed Laboratoria’s program and more than 80 percent of those women went on to work in the technology industry. With over 450,000 unfilled tech jobs expected to arise in Latin America, Checa hopes her company will give low-income women the skills and opportunities to fill those jobs.
  4. Unima: Co-founder Laura Mendoza helped start Unima in Mexico in order to provide cheap, efficient diagnostic testing to poor and remote communities. The organization developed a fast and low-cost diagnostic and disease surveillance technology, particularly targeting tuberculosis (a highly contagious disease prevalent in poor communities). Patients put a drop of blood on a specially-designed paper. The result of the chemical reaction on the paper is evaluated by a smartphone app. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and each paper costs around $1. Due to its simple design, Unima’s technology does not require a lab to evaluate blood samples, so the diagnostic testing is easily transportable to remote communities. The Unima also stores all results from the smartphone app in a cloud server for real-time data surveillance. While large-scale testing of the technology began in Mexico, Unima hopes to expand its reach to remote and low-income communities in Africa as well.
  5. Vunilagi Book Club: Started in 2017, founder Adi Mariana Waqa’s book club provides books and a passion for reading to kids in Fiji. She and her volunteers encourage kids to read and ask questions. By inspiring a love of learning in youths, the book club’s mission is to help kids avoid the generational cycles of poverty by tackling illiteracy and encouraging them to pursue education and employment. Vunilagi has donated over a thousand books to six different rural villages and is run by around 30 volunteers.
  6. Wazi Vision: Founded in 2016 by Brenda Katwesigye, Wazi Vision provides affordable eye care. In Uganda, home of Wazi Vision, 1.2 million people are visually impaired, but eye care (testing and corrective lenses) is very expensive. Wazi Vision designs and provides eyeglasses at 80 percent of the cost of other glasses on the market. Wazi Vision also trains and employs women to design glasses, perform eye tests and manage delivery logistics. In order to provide low-cost eye care, Wazi Vision, supported by the United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF) and Greentec Capital Partners, developed an eye testing software that uses Virtual Reality. The technology does not require an optometrist, helping Wazi Vision reach more remote communities that may lack an optical center. Since its inception, Wazi Vision has tested over 5,000 children in schools across Uganda, donates glasses to children who cannot afford even their cheaper version, and continues to donate 10 percent of every pair of glasses bought toward the purchase of a pair of glasses for a child in need.

These six women-led companies are helping those in poverty, as well as providing inspiration and empowerment for other women looking to own and run businesses. These companies not only benefit the women who have helped establish them but countless others in need.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr