Gender research in the banana trade

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Banana Link has produced a series of working papers for the World Banana Forum, analysing the participation of women workers and small producers in the global banana industry, including recommendations towards the provision of Decent Work and sustainable livelihoods for these women actors.

This research aims to improve our knowledge of the participation of women, as workers and also as small farmers, in global banana production. Each regional report - Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean - includes statistics on women’s’ participation in the industry, an analysis of the potential causal factors for this varying level of participation, identification of the key issues faced by local women workers and producers in the workplace and at home, the different roles/tasks that women carry out in the different countries and companies and any existing innovations that are helping to provide Decent Work and sustainable livelihoods to women in the banana sector. 

The Global Overview provides a summary of the situation for women workers and producers on an international level and includes a series of subsequent recommendations targeted at various stakeholders – civil society, small producers, companies, retailers, certification bodies, and multi-stakeholder platforms – towards the provision of Decent Work and sustainable livelihoods for women in the banana sector.
The aim of the research is to inform decision making and the development of appropriate activities and programmes on gender equity within the framework of the WBF and within the ongoing activities of the its banana industry members. However, this information will hopefully also be relevant to anyone with an interest in issues of agriculture, gender equity, and socio-economic development.
The research was commissioned by the WBF, which is hosted at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, and undertaken by Banana Link in collaboration with local trade union partners in banana producing countries. Input was also received from some local companies and certification bodies, as well as from the WBF Steering Committee members and the FAO Department on Gender. 
Key findings:
  • Women comprise less than a fifth of the global workforce in the banana export industry.
  • The highest participation of women in the industry is in the Caribbean (excluding the Dominican Republic) where 40% to 45% of workers and small producers are women
  • The lowest participation in in Latin America (12.5%), the Dominican Republic (12.5%) and Cote d'Ivoire (11%).
  • Key causal factors for these differing levels of participation include:
    • levels of overall gender equity in local cultures / societies
    • provision of childcare (linked to the above point)
    • dependency on migrant labour, with men more likely to migrate to work on plantations than women
    • the diversity of roles that are deemed ‘appropriate’ for women
    • company policy and practice that may promote, or discriminate against, women
    • the extent to which banana farms are deemed as ‘women friendly’ workplaces
The reports:

Regional Report on the Caribbean

Regional Report on Latin America

Regional Report on West & Central Africa 

Global Overview

The following reports are also available in Spanish and French: