Organic Consumers Association

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Care What You Wear

The Eco Guide to Female-Friendly Shopping

Choose the right brands if you want to promote women’s rights

Ethical shoppers like me want to think that they always have the sisterhood top of their list when they shop. But in practice I find most can rattle off the five freedoms of animal welfare, but are pretty hazy on enshrined women’s rights, like the right to hold elected and appointed government positions.

International Women’s Day gives us the chance to brush up. Adverts suggest that merely showing an image of a famously strong woman, like Beyoncé, to a young girl will give her the step up she needs.

In reality mainstream brands would have to focus on their female labour force if they really wanted to make inroads towards gender equality. Few are seriously invested.

Sectors like cut flowers, garments, coffee and chocolate are full of women behind the scenes in their supply chains. Unfortunately their systems feminise poverty with workers unable to live decent lives on their wages or timetables. Oxfam’s 2013 study of West African female cocoa farmers working for mainstream brands found they were paid less than men, subject to abuse and unable to obtain loans. Some earned as little as $2 a day.

You could argue that it’s too tough to bring equality to supply chains dependent on low-wage female workers. In which case Divine Chocolate, which started 20 years ago as a collaboration between NGOs and Kuapa Kokoo, a Ghanaian farmers’ co-operative, represents an inconvenient truth.

Kuapa Kokoo’s has a non-negotiable gender strategy. From land rights to literacy, female empowerment has been embedded in and prioritised by this brand. And there’s a special “empowering women” version of Divine’s best-selling chocolate bar on sale this week so we can all celebrate the anniversary.

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