IWCA's Newest Chapter - Democratic Republic of Congo
Chantal Binwa was one of thirty participants who attended the International Women’s Coffee Alliance 2012 Leadership Training in Nairobi, Kenya. Chantal was a young coffee farmer from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was eager to learn and make new friends. One of many requirements was that participants speak fluent English. Although, Chantal had limited ability to speak English, fluent in French and other local languages, she quickly became friends with the English/French speakers and relied on them to assist her in participating in activities. After the training she sent the following email describing why she wanted to form a chapter in her country:
"Since 1999, I have been involved in activities against women discrimination and support women economic empowerment. Thus, we found that women who grow coffee with their husbands do not have access to income after harvest. The coffee harvest is an occasion for men to drink alcohol and to marry several women as they have money. And during this time, women are beaten and driven from their homes with their children without anything. Apart from that, during periods of field maintenance, they are often victims of rape by armed militias, the military and also unpatriotic persons. This constitutes a serious violation of the dignity of women and discrimination by their men and society as a whole.
To fight against these practices, we educate women and girls about their human rights and sexual violence that they face daily in their coffee cultivation and in their households. In addition to that, we provide advocacy to local political and administrative authorities to take measures to put an end to the massive violations that women face on coffee farms and in their households. In addition to educational and advocacy activities, we have undertaken since 2007, actions that may contribute to the economic empowerment of rural women through the coffee sector. These actions are realized by bringing women together in women's groups. At the base, we educate them [with] the coffee cultivation techniques through field schools and give them coffee seedlings so they can also begin to grow coffee, a culture that was reserved for men. In addition to this, we offer them small loans to facilitate the maintenance of the fields.
Unfortunately, women are obligated to treat their coffee product manually. That is why the coffee they produce is not of good quality because of broken and ignorance of treatment techniques. Hence, they do not gain value after working hard.
That is why we have found useful to join the International Women's movement in coffee (IWCA) and seek the involvement of other women around the world so that together we can find solutions to various problems faced by women in the cultivation of coffee in our country. We have formed a committee and we have submitted a membership application to IWCA USA. After that, we developed our statutes. These statutes have been sent to ministries of agriculture, human rights and justice in order to have an operating license and a legal personality. We now expect that the authorities allow us to operate officially. After that, we will send the complete file to IWCA so that we can be recognized as a Congolese chapter of IWCA. Through the Congo Chapter, women will receive training on techniques for coffee processing. In addition to that, they can have access to machines, which will facilitate the processing of their coffee. Hence, they will produce good quality of coffee, selling it at a good price and gain a lot. This will help them to reinforce their economic empowerment and fight against discrimination they suffer.
Apart from that, the Congo chapter seeks to have access to customers, which can buy our production."
On February 13, 2014, Chantal Binwa proudly sat at a table between two small DRC country flags to sign a Letter of Understanding with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance in Bujumbura, Burundi, joining women from her country with a global network working towards the advancement of women in coffee. The signing was witness by Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director UN International Trade Centre; Odette Kayitesi, Minister of Agriculture & Livestock Burundi; Robério Oliveira Silva, Executive Director International Coffee Organization, and US Ambassador, Dawn Liberi.