I wanted to share this story with you all. We cannot help the circumstances that we are born into, but we can make a change as we grow. This is a story of one of those women, making a change for her and her family. This is also, not only Candida’s story, but the story of many women around the globe. We can help give them a voice by supporting them and helping them through the purchases of their coffee.
Be inspired………..Cheers, Jo
The Silent Voice of Women
My name is Candida Gomez, I live in the Cauca Region of Colombia and I am a coffee producer. My farm is very small, only 2 acres and I work very hard to produce excellent quality coffee. But I also work very hard to take care of my home, and my family. In our cooperative 30% of us are women who are the sole supporters of our families. Many of our husbands have been murdered by the guerrillas who are angry that we want to grow coffee and not the coca drug. My message is this: “We as women work very hard, those of us who have husbands, get up early in the mornings before our husbands and go to bed after them. If we are the only support for our family, we live in constant fear our children will starve, if we cannot support them with the coffee. We work the farms, but our voices are never heard, not in our homes, not in our communities, no in our cooperatives, and not in the coffee industry. We live in silence, no one hears us, no one sees, us, no one knows the work we do, no one gives value to our lives, and no one knows the pain we suffer, or hears our fear. What we want is not very much, what we want is for our voices to be heard, and to be given respect for the work we do and what we contribute to those who buy, sell and consume the fruit of our farms and the work of our hands.
The estimated number of small coffee producers working farms of 1-5 acres is 25 million. These producers account for 65-70% of the worlds coffee production. Through our work in coffee producing countries for the past 16 years, working with small farmers, we have learned that approximately 30 percent of these small producers are women. And of these women coffee producers, 30% of them are women heads of household. They are women who, for the most part, have been abandoned or are widowed. Not surprising, these figures have been consistent in every country we visit. You cannot understand who is really working the farm until you actually go out to the farms and observe the day to day work that is being done and in the processing plants. In these communities, sitting at a table with the boards of the cooperative, you will sit with a table of men only.
Today, we talk not only with the men, but we insist on meeting with the women too. We want to hear their voices. What they want to tell us everywhere we travel is that their husbands are receiving all of the income from the sales of her coffee. That for all of her work, she never sees a penny of the income and that she has no voice in how the family income is used. That her daughter cannot go to school because, if there is any extra income, it is invested in the sons only. That she is 70% more illiterate then her son or husband. That she marries at 12-16 years of age, and has on average 4-5 children. These women would tell you that 50-75 % of them are abused by physical violence, rape, and emotional abuse and that this is an everyday part of the culture of the rural coffee community. And finally, they would tell you they receive no respect at all because they are considered to have no value in life, except to bear children.
Educating our industry about this situation is the first step in helping support these women producers. Finding ways through coffee and other means to provide respect and support for these women, stopping the generations of silence from women coffee producers and giving them voice, should be a mission for our industry to look to for the next year and for the years to come.