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I’m still in Cherokee, North Carolina for a few more hours and while my baby son is asleep in the car with my partner, I am in Trial Grounds Coffee House writing this blog and drinking a Decaf Americano, which is much tastier than the hotel coffee I’ve been sipping on this week.

As the espresso machine was whirring away, a posted sign caught my eye. Requirements for roasters selling Cafe Femenino. Here are the ones that stood out to me:

If possible, a woman in the roasting company should sign for the purchase of the coffee.

If possible, a woman should be involved in the sale and marketing of the coffee.

A minimum of $.05 per pound from the sales of the Cafe Femenino Coffee must be donated to a woman’s crisis center of your choice, or to The Cafe Feminino Organization or to both.

I asked the barrista guy about the program and at first he didn’t know what I was talking about, but then he recognized their logo and we talked for a minute about power behind coffee and historical coffee prohibition stuff. What was this coffee empowering women organization thing? I got my drink and looked them up.

From the Cafe Femenino website:

“Coffee is the second largest traded commodity in the world next to oil. Women coffee producers make up 30 percent of the 25 million coffee growers that are responsible for producing 75 percent of the world’s coffee. Harsh gender inequality, poverty and abuse are rampant in these coffee production regions. Most women coffee producers have no rights, no income and are abandoned by their husbands.”

Determined to change things and empower women, over 460 women coffee producers in Peru came together as a united force. They began growing, harvesting and producing their own coffee called Café Femenino.

Brainchild of Isabel Latorre who had become an organic coffee importer for the Vancouver, Washington-based Organic Products Trading Company (OPTCO), Cafe Femenino was envisioned as a project to get women out of poverty. When Latorre returned to Peru, where she is from, and saw how much of the gender imbalance would be remedied if women had their own income, an idea began to stir. The first conference of Women Coffee Producers was held in Northern Peru in 2003.

Latorre took it to Gay and Garth Smith who had founded OPTCO and they were interested.

Gay Smith soon became the founder of Cafe Femenino. Gay, who was an active member of the fair trade coffee market, has been full force in supporting women coffee producers and in women’s empowerment. The movement behind Cafe Femenino has been a women driven revolution!

Gay Smith is a member of the International Women in Coffee Alliance (IWCA), a former board member of Women in Action Foundation, and board member of The Café Femenino Foundation, which “was formed to provide grants to select programs and projects around the world that enhance the lives of women and their families.”

The Café Femenino Coffee Project, founded in 2004, is a “program for women coffee producers in rural communities around the world.” More than 1,500 women participate from Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, and Peru. Check out the Cafe Femenino photos.

Strict gender roles have kept women from having equal access to jobs outside the home.

“But with the organic premiums paid by OPTCO and the Fair Trade premiums, we are now able to promote the organization of the female coffee farmers and their integration into social, political, and occupational organizations.”

Often women have not been allowed to work outside the home if they wanted to, but now for many of them, there is an economic incentive and that has been irrisistable to the need in their families. The program is putting money behind women’s work and making women more valuable.

“The hope is that by changing the roles of women we improve the quality of life in these communities and build a sustainable economic system.” (from the Cafe Femenino website)

I go back to the requirements of selling Cafe Femenino, they include women’s involvement on all sides of the coffee trade. Even down to the details of preferring a woman to sign for the purchase of the coffee, a woman should be involved in the sale and marketing of the coffee. These assure women are not only being employed, but also being educated in business and employed as valuable members of companies. And a minimum of $.05 per pound from the sales of the Cafe Femenino Coffee must be donated to a woman’s crisis center or to The Cafe Feminino Organization or to both. There is emphasis on remembering women still are undervalued and battling for equality. Way to keep the focus on women!

Women have fought hard for rights and because of that, the push right now is even harder to try to take those rights away. The battle for equal rights continues. Part of this battle must be fought by economically making a place for women. As women, we must have a voice about what we want and need. Cafe Femenino looks at empowering women and communities so women can be active participating members of the communities and so their labor has economic value and their voices have worth.  Cafe Femenino is acting as a matrifocal organization, putting women first, focusing on women’s empowerment, for a more balanced world across gender lines.

There are hundreds of roasters, coffee shops, restaurants, and retail stores around the U.S. and Canada, as well as Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia. Check out one in your area. Drink matrifocal coffee. Mmmm.

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