This year’s International Women’s Day comes at a momentous time in human history. We have had over a hundred years of building our global understanding of how important gender equality is for the future of humanity.

We also have added impetus with focus from the Sustainable Development Goals and the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (March 12th-23rd) on the lives of rural women and how their initiatives and will are shaping rural communities. March 8th marks a day to acknowledge, celebrate and empower the women in rural communities who make up a quarter of the world's population and are 43% of the labour force in global agriculture.

What’s the connection with coffee? In 2016 we travelled the Gayo Region in the highlands of Sumatra, Indonesia. Our purpose was to visit the First Women’s Fairtrade Coffee co-operative in Asia. This cooperative, with the support of Fairtrade and the Café Femenino Project, is conducting leadership and business training to improve, in their words, “the skills and courage they need to be successful in entrepreneurship, financial management, and high-quality coffee production." 

Celebrate the women of Sumatra with our single-origin Sumatra Gayo Premium Coffee

Women's group Sumatra

Through our interpreter and Fairtrade Associate Wardah Hasyim, the women shared their struggles, challenges and opportunities as they work to overcome deep-rooted cultural beliefs about women and girls. We were also able to witness the support from the men for their wives, sisters, daughters and mothers to have equal human rights, through changing legal land ownership structures and supporting the women to form a cooperative and start their own businesses. This was a testament to how important these women are in their communities. Actively being able to support, celebrate and be empowered BY these women, continues to shape how we continually and consciously work for gender equality everywhere.

On the last day, we travelled with the “Kokowagayo” coffee, following it all the way from the seedling through to the warehouse where all of the last hand sorting of the coffee happens before it’s exported. Wardah pulled me aside and said, 

“See this young woman, she’s deaf-mute. What I’m really trying to do is work within the co-operative to ensure that there are employment opportunities for those of us within our community who live with a disability.” 

We are now seeing the momentum building from decades of work supporting rural women. 2018 is the year that we #pressforprogress When choosing this coffee we know we are directly supporting these strong and hopeful women from Permata Gayo Cooperative. 

Celebrate the women of Sumatra with our single-origin Sumatra Gayo Premium Coffee

Wardah Sumatra 2016

*Further reading: Make sure to look at the gender equality goals as a part of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

More from Montville Coffee: Check out our Fairtrade Trip to Origin in Papua New Guinea

March 08, 2018 — Eva Smith