The International Women's Coffee Alliance
The International Women’s Coffee Alliance aims to empower women to achieve sustainable, meaningful lives through international coffee communities. IWCA recognizes the integral part women play in both a business and an economic aspect. As such, IWCA believes women need to be involved in both family sustainability and economic choices. When this happens, multiple aspects typically leading to poverty in a community decrease.

“When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier; they are better fed; their income, savings and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is true of communities and, eventually, whole countries,” states Kofi Annan, as quoted on IWCA’s homepage.

Strong Women = Strong Coffee

IWCA’s motto is “Strong Women = Strong Coffee: Connect. Empower. Advance.”

According to IWCA chapter manager Blanca Castro, “The chapters have very localized issues that they centralize their work around to be a collective force. The common denominator for the groups is that they are all mothers, daughters and workers and share many of the same challenges around the world, not just specific to coffee, such as the price of coffee but the also laws and customs that make women earning a dignified living that much more of a challenge.”

Now how is the IWCA taking action to implement and empower women?

IWCA Ethiopia

Strong Partners Build Economic Empowerment

IWCA is involved in multiple parts of the world, including Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Women in Coffee (EWiC) partnered with the International Trade Center, which brings platforms for corporations to empower companies to connect with women-owned supply companies. As a result, the EWiC and ITC are working together to build a foundation for the same goal.

The EWiC is one branch under IWCA. It moves to improve the economy and the importance of women within a community. Through the incorporation of women in international trade, IWCA believes that poverty within Ethiopia will soon be alleviated.

IWCA Burundi

Working Together Grows Quality and Premiums

The IWCA also has a chapter in Burundi, specifically in the regions of Ngozi and Kayanza where they have seen a growing impact of empowering the women of this region. Since their start in Burundi in 2012, there has been an increase in job opportunities for the community. Moreover, this has led to improved livelihoods based on coffee bonuses and pay raises.

In Burundi alone, there has been an increase in green coffee bags. In 2012, 94 green coffee bags were produced, as compared to 2,065 green coffee bags in 2017.


Building Awareness, Strengthening Communities

Coffee Santhe (Coffee Market) is held annually in India’s coffee capital, Bangalore. Santhe is a program that helps raise funds for communities. It also unites different states within India’s massive demographic to come together and learn how they can impact and improve their communities.

Santhe generates funds and provisions for children who are in government-run schools in coffee regions. These funds and provisions support their education. It also teaches them how they can impact their own lives and those around them.

The IWCA has a presence in 22 different countries. And it promotes economic sustainability by empowering women to enter the workforce of international trade, specifically through the coffee industry. Ultimately, the International Women’s Coffee Alliance believes by uniting different nations and closing the gender gap in the workforce, the issues of global poverty will disperse.

Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Google Images

Global Feminist Companies
From government initiatives to individual campaigns, a wide range of efforts exist to remove obstacles and create opportunities for women and girls in developing countries. Countless global feminist companies have formed in recent decades, offering goods and employment to women and girls in an effort to shift the economic climate in poorer areas of the world.

Below are five global feminist companies helping women and girls in developing countries to pursue education, advance their careers and gain autonomy in their communities.

After working for the Red Cross and the United Nations as a photojournalist and witnessing firsthand the obstacles that plague women’s lives around the world, Talia Frenkel founded L., a one-for-one feminine hygiene company on a mission to provide supplies to women and girls in developing countries. L. distributes donations via female entrepreneurs around the world in order to foster financial independence among women and multiply the company’s global impact. L. employs more than 2,800 women, positioning them to efficiently support their families and achieve agency within their communities.

The majority of donated goods go to girls in countries like Sierra Leone, Nepal and Afghanistan, where many miss school during their periods due to lack of supplies. With an increasing customer following, L. estimates it will donate 50 million products by the end of this year.

Thinx, a company specializing in period panties, uses profits to fund the Global Girls Club (GGC). This six-month program hosts girls from ages 12 to 18 to train them on the finer points of human rights, reproductive health and financial independence. Using this multi-pronged educational model, the GGC experience provides young women with practical skills while building self esteem and combating the stigma around menstruation. Attendees also receive donations funded by customers’ purchases, allowing them to stay in school all month long.

The company includes environmentalism as a critical component of its mission, as the reusable nature of the product helps to cut down on waste from disposable goods. In addition, Thinx actively seeks partnerships with health education organizations and plans to continue growing the GGC program with the support of grassroots movements and concerned individuals.

Rallier is another company determined to keep girls in school. Every purchase from the New York-based clothing line warrants a donation to Shining Hope for Communities, an organization which uses funds to provide girls in developing countries with locally sourced school uniforms. With this method, humanitarians all around the world can contribute to girls’ successes and simultaneously stimulate developing economies.

Access to uniforms is a major stumbling block when it comes to girls’ education in developing countries. Studies show that providing uniforms to needy students has increased enrollment by 64 percent—and with efforts like Rallier’s, numbers could shift even more dramatically.

Uganda-based fashion brand Sseko bolsters women’s higher education by selling sandals, handbags and other accessories crafted by East African artisans. The company has used profits to send 87 promising Ugandan women to university and will send 15 this year alone. Participating scholars spend nine months working for the company to save money before attending school, and Sseko matches each woman’s savings with a scholarship.

Dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty altogether, Sseko’s business model is designed to bolster rather than undermine economies in developing countries. With a keen eye on the future, the company aims to prepare women for leadership roles in order to create widespread gender equality.

Same Sky
Same Sky, a jewelry trade initiative working between Rwanda and the United States, focuses on awarding ethical employment to women in developing countries. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where nearly one million people were murdered, systematic sexual violence against women triggered an epidemic of HIV/AIDS while society crumbled. Same Sky set out to repair the landscape of women’s lives in Rwanda by creating opportunities for them to learn a trade in order to support themselves and their families.

Women who work for Same Sky make 15 to 20 times the average wage in sub-Saharan Africa—and they get the opportunity to express themselves while they do it, as attention to “the talents and the passions of the artisans” is a central tenet of the company’s mission. These women do not just benefit from working for Same Sky; they actively contribute to the global growth and creative evolution of the company.

Poverty creates complex obstacles in the lives of women, but global feminist companies like these fight to open doors. With the continued worldwide support of women and girls in need, developing countries are sure to see progress.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Google

Women in South Sudan
Women in South Sudan are facing alarming human rights abuses. Ongoing conflict has claimed many lives and displaced about two million people. Women have suffered disproportionately, being subjected to horrific gender-based violence. Despite the grim realities women in South Sudan face, humanitarian organizations such as the UNDP and IMO, along with the U.S. government, are working to empower women in South Sudan.

With an estimated 475,000 women and girls at risk of harm, and more than half of young women aged 15-24 years having already experienced some form of gender-based violence, it is crucial that humanitarian organizations intervene. Women and girls face many different abuses, ranging from beatings and rape to forced marriage and labor. The trauma the survivors are left with affects both their mental and physical health, with many becoming HIV positive after their endurance of sexual violence.

To combat the effects of these cruelties, the UNDP and IMO are working to help women heal through counseling and support groups where they can safely discuss their experiences and feelings. Working in displacement camps, these programs have moved many women from isolation and depression to a place of hope and healing. The work does not stop there.

The goal of these support programs goes beyond healing and into the idea of empowerment, challenging traditional cultural beliefs surrounding the role of women in South Sudan. These programs work to empower women by educating them on their rights and enabling them to take on leadership roles. One way these groups are able to do this is through dramas and musical events put on by the community. These performances highlight the importance of women as peace-builders and show how they can stand up against gender-based violence.

From these programs women in South Sudan have emerged as active community leaders, promoting peace and providing role models for incoming refugees. Many of the leading counselors in these programs are women who once faced abuse and isolated themselves, demonstrating the growth that can come from support.

In the U.S., Representative Sheila Lee is working to protect the future of these women by sponsoring the Equal Rights and Access for the Women of South Sudan Act (H.R. 48). This act, which has just been introduced to the House of Representatives, supports refugee relief that encourages women’s rights. It also focuses on the complete inclusion of women in post-conflict reconstruction and development, planning a future based on empowering women in South Sudan.

With 13 cosponsors, the potential of this act is promising. However, the work of humanitarian organizations remains essential to the recovery and success of these women. While the UNDP and IMO are working to empower women in South Sudan now, this act preparing for a future in which these women can thrive.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Google

Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative
Ivanka Trump recently spearheaded the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative to enable and support women entrepreneurs around the globe. The Initiative’s goal is to train women, give them access to capital, advocate for anti-discriminatory laws and provide women with connections in the business world. The World Bank oversees the program, but it retains funding from many organizations, individuals and countries.

The initiative raised over $325 million in pledges from numerous sources. The United States was a major investor, pledging $50 million. However, the first countries to make commitments were Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, giving a combined $100 million after President Trump and Ivanka visited the nations.

Numerous other campaigns and projects have attempted to do what the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative is doing, but none of them has achieved on such a large scale. The Initiative will facilitate loans to women entrepreneurs ranging between several hundred and thousands of dollars. It will pay for business training for women, which will result in relationships with their mentors and more connections. Finally, the Initiative will work with local communities, government officials and lawmakers to change law and policy involving women. Through this, Ivanka Trump and the World Bank hope to achieve gender equality in the business world.

Women in business face many challenges globally. Women own roughly 30 percent of businesses worldwide. Meanwhile, 70 percent of small businesses with female owners are shut down due to government laws and regulations. According to the International Property Rights Index, about 25 million women worldwide do not have equal rights.

Another problem is a lack of networks and business connections for women. Studies show that men have more social and business connections, giving them better access to jobs and capital. Moreover, women are very poorly represented in construction, manufacturing and technology sectors. Instead, they primarily own businesses in the retail and service sectors, both of which experience much slower growth than other fields.

At the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, world leaders praised Ivanka and the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. Ivanka served a lead role in getting the Initiative started, even advocating for the Initiative to her father, President Donald Trump, several months prior.

If the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative is successful, it will be a major step for global women’s equality. With the ownership of successful businesses, women can hold more influential positions in society and better advocate for women’s rights. Discriminatory laws will be eliminated, improving women’s lives everywhere.

Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax

Photo: Flickr

World Population Day

Tuesday, July 11 was World Population Day, and leaders from around the globe met in London to review how much progress is being made in giving women deciding power in their pregnancies to meet global development goals.

Established as an observed day by the U.N. in 1990, World Population Day commemorates continuing efforts to empower women through gender equality initiative and access to safe contraceptives – both are tools to reduce global poverty.

July 11 also coincided with the 2017 Family Planning Summit, which was held in London and was organized by the United Nations Population Fund, the United Kingdom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Here are four ways various countries and organizations observed World Population Day:

  1. The Central Luzon region of the Philippines commemorated the day by highlighting the importance of women’s empowerment as a benefit to communities. Activities and coordination with local government emphasized the importance of advocating for women’s choice in policymaking. Hamis Kigwangalla, Tanzania’s deputy minister of health, community development and gender, led the nation in observing WPD. The theme of the observance was the same theme as it was for the year: “Family Planning: Empowering People and Developing Nations.”Education on various contraceptive methods was provided, with an emphasis on family planning as a means of addressing health and rights for women at home and globally.
  2. The Girls Empowerment Movement (GEM) observed World Population Day in partnership with Good Food Brampton and IMPACT Leaders Fund on July 22. The organization hosted a workshop which educated participants on integrating sustainability into everyday life. According to its website, GEM connects youth in the Peel region of Canada to mentoring, leadership and empowerment opportunities.
  3. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commemorated World Population Day by attending the Family Planning Summit in London. The summit stressed the importance of providing access to safe contraceptives to ensure that women are empowered to achieve greater stability, contribute towards global prosperity and increase their quality of life.“Longer-term, more innovative research and development needs to be done to create new contraceptives that meet more of women’s needs,” Melinda Gates said in her speech at the summit.“If you put these innovations together, the future looks promising. Women get the contraceptives they need when they need them. As a result, they have more opportunities, raise healthy children, and build more prosperous families and communities,” Gates said.
  4. The Gambia also officially commemorated World Population Day with a meeting in Sanyang Village. The government placed an emphasis on the relationship between population and the reduction of poverty and national development. The event was organized with the participation of the Health Promotion Directorate and the United Nations Population Fund.

Providing women in developing countries with access to contraceptives empowers them to be economically independent and contributes to global prosperity and development.

Hannah Pickering

Photo: Flickr

Congolese WomenThe Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is abundant in gold, copper and zinc. The natural resources the Congo offers has encouraged competing ethnic groups to become violent. In contrast to this abundance, the DRC is the rape capital of the world. Its prominent sexual violence is charged by war.

The second Congo war ended in 2003 after five years, but sexual assault remains commonplace. The likelihood of rape for Congolese women is much higher during a military climate. Amongst other tactics it is used to humiliate, terminate pregnancies, increase food security and create control – ultimately instilling fear. A 2007 study found that four Congolese women are raped every five minutes, and out of the population of 70 million people, 1.8 million women have been raped. It is also not rare for women to be held captive as sex slaves.

Local Congolese men and women have created rights campaign groups to take the rampant matter into their own hands. Men started masculinity groups with a simple foundation of redefining masculinity. The service is geared towards protecting women and children, teaching men that women are not inferior and educating men that rape is unacceptable and punishable by law.

In addition to the rights campaign groups, Congolese women have established camps for rape victims. At camp, women are provided with legal assistance to maneuver court cases, small jobs for the victims and medical services if needed – some women give birth at camp or need counseling and group therapy.

On the public front is Panzi Hospital, located in eastern DRC. It is dedicated to providing rape victims with psychological assistance, treatin gygnecological injuries and reintegrating girls and women into society after their stay at the hospital. Panzi has been helping rape victims since 1999 and sees between 1,300 to 1,900 patients a year.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Google

When women are given education, financial independence and power in government, great things happen. Unfortunately, many parts of the world are still relatively oppressive, making it harder for women to access these opportunities.

USAID is doing something to change that. As a part of its Resiliency through Wealth, Agriculture, and Nutrition program (RWANU), it launched the Ugandan Goat Initiative , which introduced a goat breed called the Galla, also known as “milk queen,” from Kenya in the hopes of empowering women.

As part of the initiative, women in Karamoja, Uganda are given goats and attend a training course on how to raise and care for them. The goats began to thrive under the women’s care, and little by little the strict gender roles in Karamoja have begun to unravel.

A survey of the community revealed that 65 percent now recognize the livestock group members as leaders in the community, and 61 percent have also reported improved marriages because of the goats.

“Now, I have something that I can call my own,” Joyce Owalinga, the chairwoman of her livestock group, noted. “As chairperson of my group, I can also now speak with confidence. The other women and community members respect and listen to me, and my husband now respects me.”

Not only is the Ugandan Goat Initiative changing attitudes and beliefs, it is also reducing hunger in the village. Many women are responsible for feeding their families but have lacked the purchasing power. Now, the goats bring milk which can feed families and be sold at the market for other needed goods. Each goat can feed roughly 68 people. RWANU also has programs for sustainable water management and forest restoration, aimed at improving access to food and reducing malnutrition in pregnant and lactating women and children under five.

These goats take communities one step closer to empowered women and gender equity. That news is nothing but good.

Kelsey Alexis Jackson

Photo: Flickr

New Feminism in Latin America
In the past few years, social justice movements have evolved all over the globe, and a rise in feminism in Latin America is no exception. Women from several countries across Central and South America have formed alliances and staged protests over issues including street harassment, the wage gap, rape and femicide.

Veronica Gago, professor of social sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, notes networks of feminist allies being forged across international borders in Latin America. In addition to organizing marches against gendered injustice in their countries, Latin American feminists work to create spaces where activists can discuss these issues.

Femicide is perhaps the central issue, with a number of countries organizing protests to increase awareness of the thousands of women who are killed by romantic partners each year.

Mujeres de la Matria Latinoamericana (MuMaLa), an influential feminist collective in Latin America, estimated that in 2013, 13 women were killed per day in Brazil. According to data from the Ministry of Health, rates at which women are killed by partners is not only high, but on the rise, and activists are paying attention to this trend.

Feminists in Argentina, where women are killed by partners at one of the highest rates in the world, have been particularly active in the past few years. In 2016, MuMaLa and another major contributor to feminism in Latin America called Ni Una Menos organized a protest following the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl, citing hypermasculine culture as the cause of such violent acts. Women gathered and held an hour-long strike with signs reading, “If you touch one of us, we all react.”

Just last month, feminists in Argentina organized a nude flash mob in which participants marched on government buildings to protest gendered violence. The protest itself was a work of art, featuring a string quartet and percussionist who provided background music for the demonstration. One hundred and twenty women crowded beneath a banner reading “Femicide is Genocide,” cast off their clothing and fell into a pile, later returning to their feet and punctuating the protest with shrieks of rage.

Many Latin American feminists turn to art in order to express their goals, using music, poetry and graffiti to gain the attention of both the government and the public.

Feminism in Latin America manifests in a number of forms. With the continued efforts of collectives like MuMaLa and Ni Una Menos as well as individuals, rates of femicide could decline.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr

Over the past few months, countless feminists have taken to the streets to protest gender inequality. On Jan. 21, women’s marches took place everywhere from Canada to Kenya to bring awareness to such issues as women’s healthcare, female representation in government and ignorance of sexual assault. Advocates of gender equality have begun to recognize similarities in gender disparity from nation to nation, and a new brand of global feminism has entered its nascent stages.

Elif Shafak, a Turkish novelist, notes the ways in which outcry from women in the U.S. echoes that of women in the Middle East. She attributes it to Western surges in populism, a type of appeal that often caters more closely to men than it does to women. This development may explain why women’s healthcare has been trivialized under the current U.S. administration while resources for men have remained untouched.

Shafak encourages women to continue the conversation about these issues and warns them against complacency, insisting that “the future is not necessarily more developed than the present, and sometimes countries can go backward.”

Shafak makes a good point. Indeed, feminist efforts have garnered the attention of leaders around the world. At the 54th Africa Day anniversary event last week, Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama called for keener gender equality efforts, highlighting the issue of girls’ education. New French President Emmanuel Macron made headlines earlier this month when he appointed 11 women to his 22-seat cabinet.

Though many advocates of gender equality are eager to band together and create opportunities for women, others have reservations about the movement and about the word “feminist” itself. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked if she is a feminist at a panel last month, she answered that she would opt for a different label altogether, as there are certain aspects of the movement that she rejects.

In addition, Shafak prefers the term “sisterhood” to feminism, as she believes it to be more accessible to Middle Eastern women.

Whether the movement is called global feminism, sisterhood or something else, its supporters are undoubtedly making progress in drawing attention to issues of gender equality. Regardless of varying preferences among leaders and advocates around the world, persistent conversations about widespread injustice can only serve to forge a more equitable world.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr

During a presidential tour of Madagascar on Jan. 25, 2017, Turkish first lady Emine Erdoğan addressed the need for increased educational opportunities for women and girls. Erdoğan’s inauguration of the Women’s Education Center in Madagascar was just one of the facets of her visit to the country. Erdoğan and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Madagascar as part of a campaign to strengthen ties between the two countries and encourage Turkish investment in Madagascar’s economy.

More than half of the 17 million people living in Madagascar are children. What’s more, half of Madagascar’s population subsists on less than $1 a day. This makes the subject of education all the more critical to the country’s development. While Madagascar’s education system has steadily improved over the past 10 years, some regions must work hard to ensure gender parity for their students, particularly in lower secondary education.

Following a coup d’état in 2009, much of Madagascar’s foreign aid was withdrawn, and the economy has since been slow to recover. Poverty increased sharply, infrastructure deteriorated and educational funding was slashed. The Turkish first lady’s inauguration of the Women’s Education Center in Madagascar comes at a time when increased focus on education is a necessity: UNICEF estimates that while 75 percent of children at the primary level are enrolled, roughly 1.5 million are still out of school, and gender parity remains a concern.

The goal of the Women’s Education Center in Madagascar is to empower women and support African development. It offers courses to roughly 100 women in fields such as horticulture, technology, cooking and textile work. In addition, the African Handicrafts Market and Culture House in Ankara, Turkey, will sell crafts produced by women at the center. All proceeds will go back to Madagascar.

The center is a highlight of the work done by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). TIKA provided $3.9 billion in development aid in 2015, and is active in 140 countries. Further, during his tour, President Erdoğan encouraged his country’s investors and entrepreneurs to become involved with Madagascar’s National Development Project. The project aims to increase funding and revenue from areas such as tourism, agriculture and construction.

The Turkish first lady’s inauguration of the Women’s Education Center in Madagascar illustrates a step forward for education in the country. It is especially important for women who support struggling communities. The school serves as a symbol of resilience and stimulation for the minds of young women, the economy and society.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr