SCA republishes White Paper on gender equality

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) has republished its 2015 White Paper titled Blueprint for Gender Equality in the Coffeelands, now renamed Gender Equality and Coffee: Minimizing the Gender Gap in Agriculture.

The paper was republished on 13 April to mark #EqualPayDay.

SCA Chief Sustainability Officer Kim Elena Ionescu wrote the introduction to the paper, explaining it was one of a series written on global sustainability themes directed at the membership of the association and the broader coffee community.

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, Kim writes, in 2017 the global gender parity gap widened for the first time in more than a decade and 50 countries out of 192 still do not guarantee equal rights to men and women in their constitutions.

“While this paper focuses on needs and opportunities related to gender equality in communities that grow coffee, communities that prepare and drink coffee are witnessing (and leading in) a seismic cultural shift around sexual harassment, exemplified by the #MeToo movement,” she adds.

The paper explains that the gender gap in global coffee value chains can be demonstrated in four key areas – distribution of labour, income, ownership, and leadership and decision-making.

Female farmers in rural communities bear what is referred to as a ‘double burden’, as they work much longer days than their male counterparts since they are responsible for both housework and work on farms.

Focus group discussions with coffee-farming couples in Uganda highlighted that women work a disproportionate number of hours when compared to men. Men were found to have an eight-hour workday, while women worked up to 15 hours per day, including total hours spent on coffee production and household tasks.

Male dominance in the transport and final sale of coffee also exacerbates the disparity in income between men and women. When men receive the money from coffee sales, women have greater difficulty accessing it.

Women also make up just 3 to 20 per cent of landowners in the developing world, even though they comprise 20 to 50 per cent of the agricultural labour, depending on the country.

Finally, even when women own land, they are often allotted smaller, less fertile plots or fewer coffee trees. The gap in coffee income across seven East African producer organisations was measured at US$440(about $583) for female farmers and US$716 (about $949) for male farmers, according to a 2014 survey cited.

The White Paper makes five recommendations, accompanying them with case studies showing that gender equality in coffee growing regions can improve coffee quality and increase productivity, as well as promote rural economic development.

The first of these recommendations is to include women and men equally in technical training, as this will benefit the quality of coffee supply by reaching all the relevant players with key information.

Second is to promote community-driven initiatives that create balanced households, seen as a long-term approach to promoting gender equality in the supply chain.

Next is to empower women and men equally with access to financial resources, as access to land, income and credit has the potential to improve cup quality, increases productivity, and alleviate poverty.

Investing in research into gender equality in the coffee industry is also viewed as critical to ensure long-term outcomes.

Lastly, the paper identifies advocacy as playing a crucial role in catalysing social change.

“When a critical mass of stake-holders recognises that gender equality is beneficial for everyone, minimising the gender gap will become a common goal,” it reads.

Gender Equality and Coffee: Minimizing the Gender Gap in Agriculture can be downloaded here.

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