March 8 is International Women’s Day, so we’ve been thinking about the contributions of women in the coffee industry. Women have historically been and continue to be essential to the production, harvesting, and trade of coffee.

In much of the world, Women’s Day has been celebrated for over 100 years. In 1975, it was adopted by the United Nations, converting it in a truly international celebration of women’s rights. As one of the world’s most global products, coffee is an appropriate product to consider when commemorating this day.

Depending on the country, some 45% to 70% of those who harvest coffee are women. In many countries in Africa, for example, women are the principal field laborers. For certain indigenous groups in Latin America, the coffee harvest is a part of life, even allowing women the opportunity to work while caring for small children. In many cases, however, economic benefits remain out of reach for the female part of the labor force, as they often have little control over the proceeds of the harvest.

One organization working to highlight the importance of women in the industry is the International Women’s Coffee Alliance. An organization dedicated to promoting possibilities for women in coffee communities throughout the world, the IWCA has chapters in 22 countries around the world. Each chapter develops strategic initiatives addressing needs and challenges in its own region, while the IWCA Research Alliance focuses on topics of critical importance for the industry globally. This includes a current project focusing on the reducing the “gender data gap” in order to more accurately report how many women work in coffee and what roles they play.  

At Café Britt, we are proud to offer Fair Trade coffee from the women’s cooperative ASOPROLA in Costa Rica’s Brunca region. This certification guarantees that those producing the coffee are paid fairly and that the coffee plantation has higher environmental and labor standards.