Often, we are so involved in a cause that we can easily assume that everyone around us has the same clear knowledge and understanding of the crucial role women farmers play in the coffee supply chain, and how their contributions to the coffee industry are so unrecognized, unpaid and largely invisible! During my first strategic planning meeting of the year, one of my business associates, whose background is not in coffee ask me: What does it mean for a company to claim they sell or promote Women's Coffees? What do Women in Coffee mean? and why should our customers purchase Women's Coffees? It was an "aha moment" for me! I assumed it was clear to everyone, but in reality, there is no clear definition that explains the depth behind the term "Women's Coffees". The term can lose its real meaning if used too often and without a clear intention.
The concept of "Women's Coffees" has been around for some time. In the U.S. I believe it started over a decade ago (2001) when Peet's Coffee introduced "Las Hermanas" coffee. A coffee from the Soppexca Co-op in Nicaragua. Today, Las Hermanas is sold to Cafe Motto and Sustainable Harvest. Then came Cafe Femenino which began in Perú when the Cecanor Co-op started separating the coffee grown by female farmers and selling it to Cafe Femenino. The International Women's Coffee Alliance (IWCA)- Costa Rica Chapter created a member's blend being sold under the Women's Harvest brand. In 2003, Grace Mena from Deli-Café, Costa Rica and Karen Cebreros founder of Elan Organic Coffees started separating coffees even before the word micro-lot or women’s coffee came into our daily coffee lingo. There are many examples of Coffees and or Brands that fall under what we perceive as "Women's Coffees". I once read that we, as consumers, feel good when we purchase a product that we believe has an impact or helping a cause, but we stop there! We have done our job of contributing to solving the problem. Very few, take the time to understand what is beyond the package or the bean, and it is here where the meaning can get lost.
What is not a commonly known fact, is that women coffee farmers are active at all stages of the coffee production chain providing the majority of the labor. Some studies indicate as much as 70% of the fields labor, is done by women., Yet men are most frequently responsible for delivering the crop to markets, completing the sale, and collecting the payment, therefore they have much of the control over the household income in many of the producing countries around the world. The work of the women in many situations is unpaid and invisible. The cycle of “Gender Inequality both at the workplace and at home” is very difficult to break but not impossible. Organizations such as the International Women's Coffee Alliance, Relationship Coffee Institute, Cafe Femenino, to name a few, are constantly working on programs to improve and acknowledge the role of women coffee farmers in the supply chain. It is a proven fact that by increasing women direct access and control of the income, more resources then, are directed to the entire family to meet household needs, in particular to their children's education and wellbeing.
This may not be the case across the globe, but more prevalent in coffee producing regions where poverty and access to resources for women are the number one impediment to women economic empowerment.
My vision is that the industry moves beyond the term "Women's Coffee" as a way of marketing to increase sales, but rather give a more meaningful understanding and power to the important work being done to empower women in the coffee communities by building the infrastructure needed to support and sustain their lives and the lives of their families.
Next time you purchase a bag of coffee that promotes "Women's Coffee", I trust you fully understand the meaning and your contribution. You are providing income directly into the hands of women coffee farmers and making a difference in their livelihood.
Sedna's mission: To make an impact on the lives of women in coffee around the globe one cup at a time".
Mery Santos / President, Sedna Coffee Co.
Sedna Coffee Roasters and Tea supports women coffee farmers thru direct trade sourcing or thru importers promoting coffees from women farmers.