International Women’s Day is an annual event to empower women globally, transforming the lives of women and girls for the better. Unfortunately in 2017, this is still a sorely needed event, so among the growing discussion about global equality we decided to do a little investigating into women’s positions in the coffee industry. While women are involved at every step of coffee production, they generally do not gain financially, or get considered in decision making that directly affects them.
Gender equality makes good economic and social sense, according to recent reports produced by the UK and the World Bank, when women control household finances more money is spent within the household than outwith. Positive implications across health, education, land ownership and communities can be seen from this, with a higher likelihood of activities being undertaken that directly benefit the immediate community. This makes it socially productive to employ women, however it’s not quite that simple.
Generally, agricultural training and policies are targeted towards men, and this is no different in the coffee industry. Changes need to be made from the roots, and inclusivity in agricultural learning, generally considered to be mens work, needs to happen. Not only does it benefit women, but it benefits the men, as more hands make lighter work. SIf women are properly trained, production will increase, and therefore stronger security within the growers will be found.
Equal Exchange in conjunction with Twin Trading, launched an initiative in 2011 to develop a Grown by Women range. By purchasing coffee directly from women farmers, and offering premiums, they are supporting women in becoming more involved in their co-op, attending meetings, decision making. The women are then allowed to decide where the premiums are distributed. The initiative is already sparking change among coffee exchanges globally.
SOPEXXCA Nicaragua increased their women members from 5 in 2008, to 280 in 2016. The women have chosen to use the premium to set up a mobile cervical screening unit, available for use by all female members of the community. UNICAFEC Peru have increased from 20 female members in 2006 to 73, including female representatives on their board. Their premiums have been used to replace old, inefficient and unsafe to use stoves with efficient new ones. President of UNICAFEC Felipe Alberca says, “When women are members in their own right they have access to information, they learn about process, premiums and are able to receive training. Therefore they can be empowered.”
It’s certainly a case of the more women you see, the more you will see women. Which is a great thing, because historically women in power bring about positive change within their own households, and within the wider community.
Watch this great video from Equal Exchange, showcasing some of the amazing women who work in every level of coffee, from production, to cupping to brewing.