Fair Trade and Justice: A Case Study of Fair Trade and its Effect on the Freedom of Bolivia’s Indigenous Women


  • Tamara Stenn SIT Graduate Institute, VT USA




economic justice, empowerment, ethics, Fair Trade, globalization, quality of life, social capital, women


Amartya Sen has written that for justice to be realized, freedom needs to be expanded. Fair Trade, a model of global trade that puts into motion billions of dollars, purports to promote justice, and therefore expands freedom. Fair Trade is a four-pillar structure comprised of institutions, producers, consumers, and government/policy. An economic, ethnographic study of Bolivia’s indigenous women working within the Fair Trade model for the past 15 years reported mixed results. The women questioned the justice of the model based on negative experiences induced by irregular work, stress, and unsupportive communities. At the same time, women acknowledged enhanced capabilities and opportunities emanating from skills development, empowerment, and income. Although it increased women’s freedom, there are ways in which Fair Trade could be made fairer through transparency, reciprocity, and public reasoning. This work is significant in the sense that it creates a new understanding of justice and trade that enables women’s voices to be heard.

Author Biography

Tamara Stenn, SIT Graduate Institute, VT USA

Raised in New York and living in Vermont (after a few years living in Washington, DC and Bolivia, South America), I am a professor, writer and researcher. I strive to make authentic voices heard in order to create public discussion, grow understanding, awareness and bring about greater social and economic justice.  My main areas of interest are indigenous wisdom, Suma Qamana (bien vivir), and sustainable ways of being.