Gender Equality and Education as a Sustainable Future

by Andreza Mazarão

  • Gender Equality

12_12 18-AEduca­tion, health and gen­der equal­ity are the core social issues faced by all nations regard­less of their devel­op­ment sta­tus. These issues were glob­ally addressed in the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in the year 2000.

The Millennium Development Goal for gen­der equal­ity is to pro­mote gen­der equal­ity and empower women. The tar­get is “to elim­i­nate gen­der dis­par­ity in pri­mary and sec­ondary edu­ca­tion, prefer­ably by 2005, and in all lev­els of edu­ca­tion no later than 2015”. In 1999, pri­mary school enroll­ment was 91 girls for every 100 boys and 88 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in sec­ondary school. In 2008 the ratios were 96:100 and 95:100 for the two lev­els of edu­ca­tion respec­tively. Despite this progress, there is still dis­par­ity between girls and boys, and the goal is still out of reach for many devel­op­ing coun­tries. The cof­fee indus­try can be a con­trib­u­tor to the suc­cess­ful achieve­ment of this goal.

What is the gen­der sta­tus of our indus­try and how can we pro­mote equal­ity? Is there a par­ity prob­lem when we think about the baris­tas, cup­pers and roast­ers pro­fes­sion­als? Not really, as we see women and men work­ing and run­ning their own busi­nesses, equally orga­nized and skilled.

The gap becomes evi­dent when we look at cof­fee ori­gins around the world. There is a lack of sta­tis­tics regard­ing the num­ber of women work­ing in the cof­fee fields, their edu­ca­tion level and their oppor­tu­nity for advance­ment. For exam­ple, in Central and South America many farms are reg­is­tered under a woman’s own­er­ship through inher­i­tance or for tax ben­e­fit, but the women have no con­trol over the prop­erty. On the other hand, farms are still reg­is­tered under a man’s own­er­ship and are run by a woman as many men did not come back from the polit­i­cal con­flicts occurred over the past decades. So, the “moth­ers” had to take over the busi­ness and run the farms them­selves as an act of des­per­a­tion and courage in order to feed their fam­i­lies. These women do indeed exist, as we in the cof­fee indus­try see them, talk to them, touch and con­sume the prod­ucts they pro­duce all the time—but still to the out­side world, these women are invis­i­ble and speechless.

NGO’s have been work­ing on the goal for quite some time now. A leader in rec­og­niz­ing the poten­tial of work­ing with women in cof­fee was Café Femenino in 2004. The suc­cess of empow­er­ing women farm­ers with edu­ca­tional tools to pro­duce improved qual­ity cof­fee led to the cre­ation of the Café Femenino Foundation that now pro­vides funds to other projects related to a bet­ter liv­ing for all women and their fam­i­lies work­ing in cof­fee production.

The International Women Coffee Alliance (IWCA) has a sim­i­lar goal. “The over­all mes­sage we like to con­vey is the impor­tance of women par­tic­i­pat­ing in train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and finan­cial trans­ac­tions,” says IWCA vice pres­i­dent, Johana Bolt. “Both fac­tors impact pro­duc­tion qual­ity and vol­ume, as well as ensur­ing that a higher pro­por­tion of income is invested back into the health, nutri­tion and edu­ca­tion of cof­fee com­mu­ni­ties.” Eight chap­ters were formed by IWCA in coffee-producing coun­tries to bet­ter under­stand the local needs, develop lead­er­ship and imple­ment local edu­ca­tional projects. Another eleven coun­tries have shown inter­est in form­ing their own chapters.

Certification orga­ni­za­tions have been instru­men­tal regard­ing equal pay for men and women. In many places women are paid less than a man to exe­cute the same work. Certifications like Rainforest Alliance® and Good Inside® make sure that all employ­ees of a cer­ti­fied farm are decently and equally paid.

The largest Arabica pro­ducer in the world, Brazil, is one of the coun­tries where the lack of gen­der equal­ity sta­tis­tics is over­whelm­ing. The Brazilian IWCA chap­ter has been recently formed, and research on these sta­tis­tics is planned by 2014.

Private ini­tia­tives have cre­ated out­stand­ing exam­ples of gen­der equal­ity in cof­fee pro­duc­ing areas. Daterra Coffee farms in Brazil is one of the world’s largest spe­cialty Arabica cof­fee pro­duc­ers which employs 553 staff, 142 of which are women work­ing in the diverse tasks needed to run the busi­ness through­out the year. This means that around 25% of the whole staff is female, and the tar­get is to reach at least 30%. Daterra’s most recent gen­der equal­ity project was a tech­ni­cal course to teach women how to oper­ate machin­ery used in cof­fee pro­duc­tion, tra­di­tion­ally a male-only posi­tion. In the last ten months, thirty women took the two months course. Twenty-two are now employed at the farm in new posi­tions. They pre­vi­ously worked on hand pick­ing and this was an oppor­tu­nity to learn new skills as well as increas­ing their pay­ing. “They will be able to use this train­ing for the rest of their lives, even if they decide to work in another com­pany. Much of the machin­ery is used in other agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tions as well,” said farm gen­eral man­ager Leopoldo Santanna, who devel­oped and imple­mented the project.

Also, another impor­tant part of the whole busi­ness is run by women. The Daterra farm is a fam­ily owned com­pany con­trolled by Isabela Pascoal Becker, Luis Pascoal’s daugh­ter, who has trusted the sales and mar­ket­ing divi­sion to another woman, Andreza Mazarão.

These are just a few exam­ples of what can be done for gen­der equal­ity. There are still chal­lenges: We need more accu­rate infor­ma­tion on the sta­tis­tics and we need to set goals for gen­der equal­ity at the farm level, as well as to develop tools to mea­sure its progress. Educating these women pro­vides them with the chance to make their own choices and improve their own fam­ily future. Sharing knowl­edge is the ulti­mate “sus­tain­able” way of doing almost every­thing in our lives!

12_12 18-DAndreza Mazarao, Sales & Marketing Manager and Isabela Pascoal Becker at Daterra Coffee

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