Words cannot espresso how much you mean to me
We love coffee. We love coffee so much that our demand has increased global production by 36 million kilogrammes over the past decade. And this wonderful wakey juice offers many health benefits, from helping us burn through fat, to lowering the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, containing vital nutrients, and even reducing the risk of some cancers. Thanks, Java!
Since 2015, we have been showing coffee our appreciation each year by celebrating it as a beverage and raising awareness on the importance of fairtrade. This year, the International Coffee Organisation has highlighted Women In Coffee as the focus of 2018.
Not all beans are created equal
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing nations, but are highly disadvantaged through fewer endowments and entitlements, limited access to information and services, gender-determined household responsibilities, and increasingly heavy agricultural workloads resulting from male out-migration. Coffee beans are primarily grown within South American, Eastern African, Central African and Asian countries. It is estimated that up to 70 percent of people working the fields are women, while the men commonly take up managerial and leadership roles, making them more likely to receive training and an increase in income. This isn’t just bad for equality – it’s bad for business. The FAO estimates that closing the gender gap could increase yields by a massive 20-30 percent.
Efficient, effective coffee farming needs to be financed, and resources are particularly limited for low-income and indigenous female coffee producers. Without business networks available to producers, yields cannot be improved upon and markets become inaccessible. When it comes to the coffee industry, reliable data is frustratingly difficult to come by, and instances of sexual discrimination and harassment are woefully under-reported. And due to the severe under-representation of women in decision-making roles, they lack the influence to be able to highlight the issues that are so callously ignored.
The recent #MeToo movement in October last year unveiled the abhorrent pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault on women, particularly in the workplace. Although many were aware of the issue prior to the traction the movement gained, few realised just how commonplace it was. Soon after the campaign began, industries around the world added their voices to highlight the universality of the issue. #CoffeeToo, a small grassroots community project, was established to help confront assault, harassment and discrimination within the coffee shop industry.
Empowerment, from the ground up
There are a number of NGOs around the world focusing on women in coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association have been working hard to promote gender equality in all areas of the coffee industry, from labouring to selling. Their 2015 paper supports gender empowerment (men and women participating equally in society), women’s empowerment (women having the opportunities to realise their full potential), gender equity (men and women having the same opportunities) and gender equality (men and women being equally valued and free from discrimination). The paper offers 5 recommendations: (1) including men and women equally in technical training; (2) promoting community through driven initiatives that create balanced households; (3) empowering men and women equally with access to financial resources; (4) researching gender equality within the coffee industry; and (5) advocating for gender equality.
The mission of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is to empower women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives; and to encourage and recognise the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry. Their work supports producers in countries like Guatemala, Burundi, India and El Salvador. The IWCA is also partnered up with the International Trade Centre, who connect women together, enabling them to collectively tackle the issues prohibiting them from advancing socially and economically within the industry.
UN Women, with support from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, have been working with rural and indigenous females in Colombian coffee-growing regions to provide opportunities for leadership and business. Another organisation, Sustainable Harvest, have recognised the changing role of women in coffee. They import coffee through an approach that they call ‘relationship coffee’ that disrupts opaque, commodity-driven trade, and focuses on creating transparent relationships that increase value throughout the supply chain.
Brewty is in the eye of the consumer
A double espresso first thing to wake you up in the morning, a beautifully presented latte from your favourite Barista on your way to work, a strong black coffee rich in flavour to see you through your morning emails, or an Irish coffee topped with thick cream to savour on a Saturday evening. However you enjoy your brew, it is important to acknowledge the many people involved in its cultivation, production and distribution. As customers, it is our responsibility to ensure that our money funds ethical, fair trade companies. For more information, visit the Fairtrade website.
About The Author: Natalie Weekes is a freelance writer currently based in Nova Scotia, Canada. With a background in Marine Biology, her passions lie in sustainability, conservation, health and education. When she is not outside in nature, she can usually be found creating things, researching, and connecting with others around the world. Tweet @TheLostMollusc.