Today is the International Women’s Day.
As a woman and a coffee lover, I always wonder what is the place of the women in the coffee industry?
Women play a major role in the coffee industry
It’s often thanks to women that the coffee production happens in the first place. Yet, their contributions often go unrecognized and unrewarded.
In most family owned coffee plots, especially in Africa, it is usually women who undertake most of the field related work, and still their contributions in the decision making processes that affect them, are very limited. Many research studies show that this is because of lack of education and training for women in agricultural industry, in general.
Through hard work, initiative and persistence of coffee professionals and organisations, we are starting to see empowering changes today.
Supporting the women in the coffee industry
One of the biggest organisations in support of women in the coffee industry is IWCA , International Women’s Coffee Alliance, and their mission is to empower women in the international coffee community and to encourage and recognize the participation of women in all aspects of coffee industry.
Together with ITC, International Trade Centre, they support the establishments of women’s associations in the coffee sector, so-called chapters. Through those chapters, women work together to solve issues they face, collectively, socially and economically. The project includes components of leadership training, micro-finance, and branding and is available primarily in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
As some researches show, there are lots of changes and improvements in the aspects of field-working hours for women, the gender gap is getting less, and the inclusion of the women in all the sectors of the coffee industry is growing more, but still there’s a long way to go.
Recent AGLC (Africa Great Lakes Coffee) support program shows that in joint housholds, males spend 22% of the day working in the coffee fields, whereas their female spouses spend 18% of their time working in coffee. They suggest that the lack of access of critical inputs, such as ferilizers and pesticides, are far more important issues.
According to Specialty Coffee Association, “SCA White Paper on Gender Equality and Coffee: Minimizing the Gender Gap in Agriculture, there are still places where women work disproportionately longer hours compared to men, they make up 3-20% of land owners in the developing countries, but they are still making 20-50% in agricultural labour in most countries.
Another report (ICO’s report on “Equality and gender in the coffee sector“) shows that the gender gap in coffee sector may vary across origins . For example , revenues from selling coffee are 39% and 44% lower for female-headed housholds in Ethiopia and Uganda, respectively.
Since men are considered the primary land owners, they often take control of decision making and control of income at the household level. At the cooperative level, women are often barred from membership because they are not landowners, cannot afford the cost of membership, or feel uncomfortable attending meetings due to cultural prejudice.
What can we do?
The visibility of this issue lead to greater awareness of the role of women in coffee industry, and greater opportunities for women in coffee to raise their voices and share their struggles.
Through platforms like the social media, we have unique opportunity to encourage coffee professionals that the participation of women in coffee industry should be equally recognised and rewarded.
After all, gender equality doesn’t seek to promote women over men, but to foster equal inclusion at all levels of the coffee chain in order to improve quality and productivity in coffee growing society.
Happy International Women’s Day !
Enjoy your coffee!