Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu: Women Fair Trade Leaders Awarded


11 January 2014

2013 was a good year for WFTO members. As the world begins to recover from the shocks of the 2008 economic crisis, interest in fair and ethical business is increasing and several leaders of the Fair Trade Movement received recognition for their work during the year. This article would like to mention, in brief, three women Fair Trade leaders who acquired high level acknowledgement for their success.


L-R: Bitten Hogh, Carry Somers and Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Carry Somers of Pachacuti was presented with the “Outstanding Contribution Award” on 3rd December. This was the highest accolade of the 2013 Global Awards for Sustainable Fashion. Danyun’s Bitten Hogh received a prize for “bringing charm to China” by UNDP in November. She was noted for leading the very first Fair Trade company in China. What these two women have in common is their dedication to fairer practices in trade in their respective fields, spanning more than two decades.

Joining women achievers in Fair Trade is Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, the multi-awarded founder of Ethiopian Fair Trade footwear brand “Sole Rebels”. Bethlehem was recently appointed a member of the advisory board of the Green Industry Platform which is convened by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The accomplishments of these women leaders have been of inspirational significance in spreading the message of Fair Trade. The acknowledgements send a strong message that Fair Trade is not only a good business model but also demonstrates the important contribution that women make to sustainable development.

Traditionally, business and politics have been dominated by men. One of the biggest triumphs of the World Fair Trade Organization has been to adopt a Gender Policy that aims to eradicate discrimination at work by promoting women’s empowerment. Throughout the Fair Trade Movement, there is evidence emerging of women taking on leadership roles, participating in decision-making in their organizations and communities and having their economic contribution recognized through the payment of fair wages.

According to Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, we should not view gender equity merely as a goal but a “precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”

However, we are not celebrating just because Carry Somers, Bitten Hogh and Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu are women. We are taking pride in the recognition of ethical, fair and socially conscious business as an important recognition that there is an alternative way of doing trade in the pursuit of a more just world. (Tommi Hatinen)

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