Hi Coffeed, my name is Elaine and I recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz, where I majored in Feminist Studies. Apart from the science of coffee, a huge part of my studies centered around women in coffee, especially toward the end of my time at university. My senior seminar was titled "Gender and Politics of Human Rights," so I went out on a limb to argue that participation in global trade is an inherent right for women in coffee-producing countries, though the rights exist on a sliding scale.
I wrote a (hugely) speculative thesis on the role of women in 'export processing zones'- at origin- in farm/co-op leadership positions and the role of women in the global trade of coffee, arguing that the tiny slice of the market that is specialty coffee is actually what largely floats the market as a whole. I ended up comparing Central America and Africa, specifically El Salvador and Ethiopia (with examples from other African countries as well), and I got a sense of cultural hierarchical legacies that afford women in certain countries economic opportunities in coffee while others are relegated in strictly in-country work.
After the fact, I still have a lot of unanswered questions. I really would like to know:
-What the IWCA is up to lately, and how chapters address advocacy on basic and more complicated levels (like education, healthcare, and beyond...)
-Are there other programs that connect the specialty coffee industry with women producing (or working in part to produce) quality coffee? What sort of empowerment and development programs are in place?
I have an idea of what needs to be done to afford women more economic freedom in this industry, though from my research (and experience working in specialty coffee) it seems like the answer is specialty only. What, then, becomes of women doing highly valued but intensely back-breaking work like handsorting (thank you for your post, Peter Giuliano), when their product ends up being completely opaque and untraceable afterward?
Thanks for reading, I would love to discuss with anyone who has the time.