THE CHALLENGE OF WOMEN IN COFFEE
Of the world's estimated 1 billion poor, 70% are women. Women own less than 1% of the world’s titled land. The World Bank estimates that more than 500 MILLION PEOPLE throughout the world are dependent on coffee FOR THEIR LIVELIHOODS, and of that number, 25 million are coffee farmers. Unfortunately, coffee farmers typically live and work in substandard conditions, which are compounded by the fact that they receive only a small percentage of the actual price for which the coffee is sold to the consumer. Women, who represent a good majority of coffee farmers, face additional challenges. Aside from the day-to-day struggles women coffee farmers face in order to maintain a respectable standard of living, they also struggle with THE GENDER INEQUALITY prevalent throughout the world’s coffee growing regions.
These principles are the foundation of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) and guide the organization’s activities:
- Respect - Every woman has a unique and valid voice; therefore, the IWCA respects every woman and her ideas.
- Sustainability - The IWCA supports programs that foster harmony of environmental, social and economic impact.
- Abundance - In the spirit of generosity, the IWCA supports programs that encourage the equitable allocation of resources in the world.
- Integrity - Serving women in coffee is the ultimate goal of the IWCA and to further this goal, all decisions are made with honesty and integrity.
- Collaboration - Communities hold the solutions to their own problems, therefore the best way to impact these communities is through collaboration and partnership.
- Making a Difference - All women can make a difference while earning a living.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Back in 2003, Karen Cebreros and Kimberly Easson planned a women-only coffee trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Their goal: to encourage a better understanding of the issues faced by women at origin and create connections between women in all segments of the coffee industry.
In three short days in Nicaragua, women from diverse backgrounds connected and discussed ways to make a difference through their trading relationships. From this trip, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) was born.
A CROWDED BREAKFAST
The fledgling group scheduled a breakfast at the 2003 Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) annual conference in Boston. The response was overwhelming. Nearly 100 women showed up – far more than the 30 expected. Women from all over the world ate while balancing plates on their knees. No one wanted to leave. There was a warm and energized atmosphere as women shared stories and networked.
By the time the 2005 SCAA conference was held in Atlanta, the group had blossomed into an organization containing hundreds of women. Speakers came from Rwanda, Nicaragua, and the USA. Group sessions were held to discuss the needs and interests of women working in the coffee industry.
A REMARKABLE TRACK RECORD
Since its founding, the IWCA has remained focused on promoting possibilities for women in coffee communities throughout the world. For a relatively young organization, IWCA has accomplished a tremendous amount. With the generous support of donations from individuals and industry partners and through an incredible amount of donated volunteer time, the IWCA is poised to increase its impact on women’s lives throughout the global coffee community. Be a part of our efforts – you can make a difference in women’s lives!
Karen Cebreros - Colleen Crosby - Kimberley Easson - Karen Gordon - Melissa Pugash - Margaret Swallow