Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type



International Affairs


This thesis aims to determine if fair trade clothing is an effective model to empower women throughout sub-Saharan Africa and to analyze its effectiveness in addressing issues that women throughout this region face every day. The analysis focuses on three specific forms of empowerment; economic, social, and political in order to break down the specific efforts of fair trade clothing, determining how this industry is able to address all of these aspects leading to women’s empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa. My research also includes literature detailing the start of the fair trade industry, critiques of fair trade and ways in which fair trade clothing specifically can improve the livelihoods of women. In analyzing the literature portraying efforts of fair trade to empower women, with examples and case studies of current organizations and businesses working to accomplish the same goal, I have concluded that fair trade clothing can effectively empower women in sub-Saharan Africa. While fair trade clothing can be an effective and sustainable model to promote women’s empowerment, several different types of empowerment, between economic, social, and political forms, must be represented in the model in order for fair trade clothing to truly change and improve the lives of African women.