International Women’s Day is March 8th. We hope you’ll join us by raising a cup of your favorite brew to women producers, leaders and advocates all over the world!
Coffee farming is hard work, and women face special challenges. A 2015 report issued by the Coffee Quality Institute found that even when women growers do more than their share, “coffee is often considered to be a ‘man’s crop.’” Female producers don’t have equal access to land or resources. Moreover, they often balance their duties on the farm with family expectations at home. But women in the industry persevere! And the report, entitled “The Way Forward: Accelerating Gender Equity in Coffee Value Chains,” found reason for hope that conditions can improve. The CQI report shows that systemic changes, like training and support, empower women.
At the end of February, Equal Exchange’s Quality Control Manager, Beth Ann Caspersen, will visit Nicaragua for a two day Gender Equity workshop sponsored by CQI. Over the last three years, the Gender Equity Project has worked with various actors — from farmer households to producer organizations and end-market companies — by researching and creating tools to better include women and families. Women’s involvement in coffee doesn’t stop after the harvest, The Nicaragua workshop will focus on importers and roasters. The goal is to provide clear methodologies that are inclusive and collaborative.
At Equal Exchange, we advocate for increased gender equality at every stage of the supply chain. We salute our sisters around the world who work as agronomists and cuppers. We cheer those who take on leadership roles in their coops, despite the challenges of sexism. And we appreciate our women coworkers in the U.S. — successful buyers, roasters and baristas — as well as the women who lift up Fair Trade within their churches and community groups.
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It’s time to take action about gender-based inequality! People are speaking up about sexual harassment, bias in the workplace, and violence against women and girls. We’re sharing our stories and standing up for each other. And we show our solidarity through ventures like the Congo Coffee Project.
At the Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that has struggled with sexual violence for generations, survivors find a safe place to heal. Equal Exchange began a partnership with the Panzi Foundation in 2011. EE donates $1-2 to the project for every bag of Congo coffee sold. We source the coffee from Congolese co-op farmers at SOPACDI. And the money raised – over $60,000 since 2011 — goes to vocational skills training for women recovering at the Maison Dorcas aftercare center.
In 2016, Panzi Hospital constructed a small clinic known as a One Stop Center in the Eastern Congo town of Bulenga to provide basic medical services to the community and to provide survivors of sexual violence with treatment. Bulenga is located along the shores of Lake Kivu. It’s home to our coffee producer partners at SOPACDI. Although the town is located next to an important water source, transporting and storing clean water for the clinic has been challenging. In 2017, Equal Exchange contributed the $11,000 raised through the sale of Congo Coffee to the construction of a water pump and collection system. “Fresh and clean water are basic human rights,” Beth Ann notes. “The vision for the future will be to construct additional water stations to bring these benefits to the rest of the community as well.”
Thank you for championing Fair Trade. Happy International Women’s Day!