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Assessing the gender impacts of Fairtrade

Sally Smith (Brighton and Hove, UK)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 17 May 2013




The purpose of the paper is to summarise the research evidence related to Fairtrade impacts on women and gender relations and propose a conceptual framework for future research on gender and Fairtrade.


The paper draws on a meta‐analysis of research studies on Fairtrade impact, including over 20 case studies from a range of countries and sectors. It proposes a conceptual framework for understanding and researching Fairtrade gender impacts, including direct, indirect and combined impacts.


There is a need to situate analysis of Fairtrade gender impacts within concepts of the gendered economy, including attention to gender biases in income opportunities, intra‐household gender relations, organisational and network dynamics, and socio‐cultural, legal and political contexts. The available evidence suggests that Fairtrade has mixed impacts for women ‐ in some situations and contexts it supports women to improve their income, wellbeing and status, strengthening their position within the household and organisations, while in others it exacerbates pre‐existing gender inequalities. Impacts also differ according to factors such as age, marital status, education and wealth.

Research limitations/implications

The conceptual framework should be tested and further refined through empirical work.

Practical implications

The conceptual framework identifies key mechanisms used within the Fairtrade system to bring about change, and highlights the multiple connections between Fairtrade and other influences on gender outcomes at individual, household, organisational and community levels. As such, the paper has practical implications for both researchers and practitioners working in the realm of Fairtrade.


A meta‐analysis of findings on Fairtrade gender impacts has not previously been done in a comprehensive way, and the conceptual framework will support future research on Fairtrade and gender.



Smith, S. (2013), "Assessing the gender impacts of Fairtrade", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 102-122.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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