The Challenge of Women In Coffee

WICAt the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) ’s 4th convention:  Coffee & Trade Beyond Barriers this past October 15 – 16, 2015 in Bogota, Colombia, the “Women Care Certified” was launched, developing an innovative category. This certification was presented to members of the international coffee sector attending the Convention such as producers, millers, exporters, importers, roasters, baristas and IWCA chapter members from countries all over the world.

According to the Coffee Quality Institute, CA, USA, “70% of the world´s coffee is grown on small family farms and women do much of the work on the coffee farms but rarely have access to the resources that would help them be more successful”.

Since its foundation, IWCA´s main challenge is to struggle with THE GENDER INEQUALITY prevalent throughout the world’s coffee growing regions.  “Success through Localization” is IWCA’s strategy and is based upon the formation of chapters in both coffee producing and consuming countries. These chapters form independent organizations following the laws of their own countries.

WCC was created by the Alianza de Mujeres de Café de Costa Rica (AMCCR), the Costa Rican chapter of IWCA, to add to the many certifications available in the fair coffee industry a different option: one to guarantee gender equality, access to resources, training and education, and a framework that enables women to participate as equal partners in the coffee production value chain. It aims to improve the lifestyle for all women involved in the cultivation, processing, trading and exportation of coffee.

WCC responded to the ultimate goal of the IWCA: Serving women in coffee.

WCCertified coffee is a quality coffee. The WCC Standards use a scoring system that seeks to promote the continuous improvement in the management and administration of the coffee farms and their organizations.

To be certified, a score of at least 80 is required in the cup cupping attributes. Additionally, the producer must be affiliated with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance. The production unit should be owned or managed by a woman (a critical criterion), and there is an emphasis on men and women working in the farm with equal roles and responsibilities and receiving equal pay.

The certification criteria were explained at the convention; including traceability and transparency in the supply chain, as well as social responsibility and environmental sustainability standards. Amongst the standards to be assessed regarding fair treatment of workers, WCC addresses the following: training, occupational security, compliance with child labor legislation, regular working hours and overtime, and clear policies prohibiting discrimination and sexual harassment. WCC environmental responsibility criteria includes carbon footprint with emission reduction actions, monitoring energy and water use, shade management, erosion prevention, waste management that protects water sources, and exclusion of “Red Label” items or Type 1 A and 1 B classified items, along with proper training in Safe Handling of Agrochemicals.

Additionally, women could use the certification to receive a better price for their coffee. This price premium is distributed through a specific plan inserted in the certification process, benefiting women in the organization and improving the quality of their life.

The certification is owned by Alianza de Mujeres de Café de Costa Rica (AMCCR) and requires verification by third party auditors, Ecológica (ver un mini de que es Ecológica y qué hace para las mujeres). Ecológica verification includes farm visits and review of records of farm activities annually during the first two years. After the first two years, organizations or individual producers who score 90 or above may be inspected every two years.

With the present threats to the coffee industry, ranging from climate change impact on agriculture to global economic instability, it is essential to engage women´s full capacity to optimize the sustainability of the quality coffee supply. WCC not only addresses the industry support for gender equity but the support of all stakeholders through a coffee lover´s community from bean to cup.

The IWCA is a global peer network of women in coffee that ADVOCATES for women from seed to cup and PROVIDES access to resources and a forum for connection. 


Empower women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives; and to encourage and recognize the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry.

IWCA Contact information:

Suggested Reading