Spotlight: AMUCC Gender Equity Training
Author | groundwork coffee Date | July 23, 2020
Our partnership with the women of AMUCC, an association of women coffee producers in Cauca, Colombia, has developed over the years. From the outset of our partnership, we’ve paid an additional per pound premium to fund a self-managed revolving credit line which helps the certified organic farmers meet short-term cash flow needs, invest in farm equipment upgrades, and as a general rainy-day fund for the certified organic members. We’ve also committed an $0.06/lb. premium to support transitioning AMUCC farmers from conventional to organic growing practices.
On his annual visit to Colombia in June 2019 our Chief Coffee Guy, Jeff Chean, had the opportunity to see this support in action through a gender equity training program for the women of AMUCC. Developed by Angela Pelaez, Director of Sustainability for RGC Coffee, a leading importer of high-quality and specialty green coffee, the program was intended to help provide economic empowerment to the association members.
We found the program to be especially unique due to its focus on the economic empowerment of the whole family. When asked what gender equity meant to the trainers, Ms. Pelaez explains,
"For me, gender equity means family prosperity. Normally when people speak about gender equity they are only thinking about women. Some of the things I have learned from my work in the community is that when one woman has the possibility to have access to money, to make decisions, to take trainings, this will be translated later to prosperity for the family."
Facilitating these types of trainings in Colombia can be difficult. An agrarian and patriarchal community, the organizers and women participants received pushback from men in the community. Of the 350 association members invited, 26 were able to attend. “These are the only ones whose husbands would let them come,” noted Ms. Pelaez. Expecting some challenges, the organizers specifically designed their program to address this type of pushback. Ms. Pelaez notes,
"The main challenge is always the same. The women do not go to the trainings, to the workshops. When they try to go then men may say why do you need to go to that place? Who will take care of the children? Who will prepare my lunch? It is interesting because when we started 5 years ago we immediately understood that the first person that is necessary to invite is the man. For this reason, we started to work together with the women, the men and the children. Normally, the entire family attends the workshop together. Once the men see that it is not a threat, they will allow the women to attend the trainings."
A big part of the success of their training program is the business focus. The program stays away from language that could be seen as threatening to men. Rather, they attempt to make a business case and show how it benefits everyone. By giving women economic information, she can contribute to decision making in the home. This economic empowerment is the first of three pillars that comprise the program. The second encourages a new vision of how masculinity is defined and is called “new masculinity.” This new definition of an evolved masculinity teaches that a man’s masculinity is not diminished by his wife taking on what has been traditionally male tasks and vice versa. A man helping to take care of children or help around the home neither diminishes his masculinity nor his wife’s femininity. It’s all about raising the quality of life for everyone in the family by placing a focus on rebuilding everyone’s familial roles. Third, and most important of all to Ms. Pelaez and her team is: producing quality coffee. According to our Chief Coffee Guy, Jeff Chean,
“The primary goal of improving the economic viability of the family is undercut if the quality of the coffee doesn’t encourage buyers to buy again. Producing quality coffee engenders the development of sustainable, long-term relationships with coffee companies. On the other side of this equation, we at Groundwork feel that, while a quality coffee is important, it is not the only thing that is important. It is incumbent upon the coffee roaster to look beyond the quality of the coffee and support this sort of program knowing that coffee quality and the quality of life for the producers go hand-in-hand. After all, social inequity leaves a bitter aftertaste in any product – coffee or otherwise.”
Since offering these trainings, Ms. Pelaez is already seeing signs of success. She notes,
"I remember one woman who told me how the program has changed her life. Before the program who decided what to eat used to be the husband. Today, I have the possibility to go to the market and choose the right food that we need in the home and I decide for the entire family how to eat in a nutritious way and with delicious flavor. It's something simple but for her it means a change of life."
It takes strength to take a stand against an entrenched, centuries old social structure and propose something “new.” A new way of viewing gender interactions that seeks to form a collaborative partnership where no stakeholder is diminished by the redefinition of roles; a new system that benefits the entire family. In honor of, and to support the pioneering women of AMUCC, Groundwork developed Fuerza Femenina. We roast the same coffee two different ways to highlight the idea that two expressions of the same thing can work together harmoniously.
We’re proud to support the AMUCC women and these programs. You can follow Angela Pelaez on Twitter and Jeff Chean on Instagram. Experience the hard work of these women farmers in every cup of our AMUCC, Fuerza Femenina, and Dos Granjeras Colombia single origin coffees, available in our online store.