While Chiquita is Spanish for very small, there is nothing small about the impact Chiquita has on the banana industry. A visit to the supermarket will quickly confirm that many of the bananas in supermarkets worldwide display the unmistakable, bright yellow and blue Chiquita sticker.
Given their influence on the banana industry, it was particularly good to see Chiquita give an update on the activities of their Women’s Committee at the second conference of the World Banana Forum (WBF) in February. The Committee, formed in connection with the historic 2001 Labour Agreement between Chiquita, the Latin American Coordinator of Banana Unions (COLSIBA) and the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), is working to promote and reinforce a safe workplace for women and to support their personal and professional development.
According to the Senior Communications Specialist at Chiquita, Irene Sandoval Arce, one of the three priorities of the Women’s Committee is to “develop a training program for women to advance technical skills”, advocate for their rights, provide them with role models, and improve health and safety conditions.
Second Conference of the World Banana Forum
Fairfood International attended this year’s conference of the WBF, which promotes the worldwide adoption of best practices for sustainable banana production and trade. According to WBF’s research, conducted in 13 countries worldwide, women working in the banana industry are the segment of the population that is most affected by discriminatory practices. Some of the major gender issues in the banana industry identified by WBF research include: sexual harassment; preferential hiring of men over women because of maternity leave and family responsibilities; age discrimination and unequal wage distribution between men and women in the industry.
For this reason, certain WBF participants from the public and private sectors are now working towards improving gender equity and working conditions for women in the banana industry. The working group on labour rights and other workplace issues set an important benchmark for gender discrimination in the banana industry at this year’s WBF conference, when it hosted the first ever global meeting of women banana workers.
Training for the future
Chiquita’s planned training, perhaps the most significant of all the developments announced at the women’s meeting, seems geared, at least in part, toward helping women workers improve their skills with the ultimate goal of advancing their roles at the plantations. This training will be further explored through a pilot project that Chiquita is currently developing to address these issues in Panama.
In addition, a new clause identified by the Women´s Committee highlighting the best practices for addressing gender discrimination will be included in the Collective Bargaining Agreement currently in place between Chiquita, IUF and COLSIBA. This is to enable all parties to continue to improve the working conditions of women at Chiquita plantations worldwide. Chiquita will also revise their company Code of Conduct. Although it appears that there are not any plans for this at this time, we at Fairfood look forward to seeing the developments of the significant work carried out by Chiquita on women’s issues, which will be reflected in future versions of the company’s Code of Conduct.
Without a doubt, Fairfood welcomes Chiquita’s commitments and is looking forward to seeing the documents shared publicly. We encourage others in the field to follow suit and take similar actions to address gender inequity and discrimination in their global supply chains. Even small steps taken by giants in the industry will have a large impact on the people within their supply chains.< Back