International Coffee Day is October 1st. This is a day we here at Equator Coffees & Teas love to celebrate. Coffee is truly a global product and touches the lives of millions of people around the world. There are an estimated 25 million coffee farming families in the world and women make up 50 - 70% of this workforce. This Sunday at our cafes, we will be featuring some amazing women produced coffee and have partnered with the International Women's Coffee Alliance (IWCA) to raise funds to support programs that empower women coffee producers.
On International Coffee Day we will be exclusively brewing coffee from two cooperatives that are led by women: Honduras COMUCAP and Sumatra Queen Ketiara. We will be donating $.75 from every cup and $2 from every bag sold (in-store and online) of these coffees to the IWCA.
The International Women's Coffee Alliance (IWCA) leads women's empowerment in the international coffee industry by supporting and growing a network of self-organized, self-governing, women-led chapters across the globe. Each chapter develops and implements strategic initiatives to address their unique needs and challenges.
Recent chapter’s projects have been: changing outdated laws preventing women from registering coffee in their own names (instead of a male relative), applying for grants for education and health screenings, sharing trainings on how to improve coffee quality and therefor per-pound price, promoting eco-tourism to further tell the story of women in coffee.
Our Vice President, Maureen McHugh has been involved with the IWCA since 2006 and has been a board member for the last three years. I sat down with her to discuss the IWCA and what it means to be a woman in coffee.
When and why did you get involved with the IWCA?
I visited my first coffee farm in Jan. 2004 at the invitation of IWCA co-founder Karen Cebreros. We were a group of 18 women in coffee eager to learn more about coffee-producing communities. Our trip was to Guatemala. We traveled all over the country on a bus for 8 days visiting farms, mills and meeting the women and families who were the coffee laborers whose livelihood depended upon coffee. I was deeply affected by the poverty I witnessed and really wanted to get involved with an organization whose mission was to help improve the quality of life for coffee producers.
Why did you decide to get involved?
Being an active IWCA volunteer gives me the opportunity to be of service to and contribute to the coffee industry. It keeps me focused on why we do what we do every day at Equator. We are committed to operating a sustainable business which honors the work and lives of the entire coffee value chain. Women face additional challenges due to gender inequality that often manifests itself into being excluded from training, education, and financing opportunities. The IWCA seeks to address these challenges.
What is the best thing about the IWCA?
I am continuously and profoundly inspired by the courageous women in coffee I have met from all over the world! In the years I’ve worked with the IWCA I’ve seen the growing impact of women becoming champions of their own destiny, organizing themselves, improving the quality of their coffee and raising their incomes. When women have control over their incomes, the quality of life improves for themselves, their families and their communities.
The friendships I’ve formed through IWCA are with some of the most amazing coffee women in the world. Some of these women include Chido Govera, Mbula Musau, Sunalini Menon, Julieta Vazquez Rivera, Alice Musabende, and Phyllis Johnson. Each year at the IWCA breakfast we invite a woman in coffee who has been a role model for others in their community to remind us of what is possible when women have access to resources.
Why focus on women for International Coffee Day?
Because investing in women is critical to ensuring a sustainable coffee future! We want to showcase their contributions and highlight the challenges they face.
It was amazing to sit with Maureen and talk about something other than our usual HR and retail updates. She is an inspiration to me, and seeing what inspires her in an industry she has been a part of for over 20 years is incredibly powerful. I’m so excited by the work that has been done so far by the IWCA and by Equator through our other partners Relationship Coffee Institue, but I also know that it just scratches the surface of really making a difference in the world of coffee.
I’m thankful every day for my morning coffee; thankful for the joyful aroma, the warm taste, and the boost of caffeine that gets me out the door. International Coffee Day is a day for us all to take a step back from our personal enjoyment of the product and become more aware of the process of coffee. Today and on International Coffee Day I am thankful for all the hard work done Planting, Pruning, Picking, Milling, Sorting, Importing, and Roasting done by the amazing women who brought me my morning cup.