Social Business Network and the Ethical Trading Company ÉTICO are pioneers of the Recognition of the Unpaid Work of Women in ethical supply chains, through the creation of the first ever initiative that incorporates a component for women’s unpaid work into the cost structures of contracts for coffee and sesame.
The unpaid work traditionally done mainly by women in the household and community represents an important input into production and one that should be valued and remunerated. The recognition of this work has the potential to empower women within the social infrastructure of a community as well as in the local economy. This belief is clearly stated in our Gender Policy:
“The role of women is seen as crucial to the development of the cooperatives and the community. We recognize the importance of the unpaid work that women do in support of production and our initiatives are framed to provide spaces and opportunities for women’s activities to expand and be successful. Ético deals primarily with the farmer household within the cooperative structure. Our knowledge has grown out of the experience of the Nicaraguan cooperatives and within this context and history we aim to empower all its members equally and provide investment and training for all within the system. We aim to achieve an equal balance between men and women in all the activities we sponsor.”
Many stakeholders in Ético’s supply chains, including agricultural cooperatives, buyers, and ethical investors, have enthusiastically supported the initiative to include the Recognition of the Unpaid Work of Women in the cost structure of the supply chain. Through the expertise and support of Ético researchers and gender specialists we approach the implementation of this initiative in an individualized manner with each supply chain and producer community.
The implementation of this initiative in sesame and coffee supply chains begins with strengthening the democratic organization of women within communities and expands to include savings and loans opportunities, educational programs, and better health and work benefits for cooperative jobs.
Valuing the unpaid work of women thus becomes a catalyst for directing attention to the situation of women in global supply chains and in cooperatives. Through our experiences in Nicaragua, we have seen how public recognition of the unremunerated contributions of women in society has the potential to engage leaders to focus on empowering disadvantaged women in innovative and creative ways.