Coffee Bean to Coffee Cup – Cafe Femenino is all about Women

Women in Peru are the subject of persistent discrimination in education, employment, and health. That's why Cafe Femenino, a coffee growing cooperative managed solely by women, is turning heads - especially male heads. Femenino is a great program to be involved in and the coffee they're putting out is absolutely wonderful.

Scattered across rural farm villages that dot the Andes Mountains of northern Peru, 464 women teamed together to form their own coffee association, Cafe Femenino, as a way to earn more money and assert their independence in a historically male dominated country, more specifically a male dominated industry.

Ethnically and geographically diverse, Peru's population is said to be marked by inequities in wealth, education, and employment. In urban areas of Peru the abuse rate of women is estimated at 41 percent, but due to the isolation in rural communities, the rate is far higher.

A study conducted in a maternity hospital in Lima, Peru, found that 90 per cent of mothers aged 12 to 14 had been raped, and that the vast majority were raped by their father, stepfather or another male relative. The maximum sentence for wife abuse in Peru, is only 30 days of community service.

This concept of Cafe Femenino was conceived through the combined efforts of Organic Products Trading Company, a coffee importing business based in Vancouver, and the women themselves searching for ideas that would improve the conditions of their lives.

Gay Smith and her husband, Garth, owners of OPTCO, have worked with coffee cooperatives for 14 years in countries such as Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica and Uganda. The women farmers participate in all coffee growing activities - preparing the terrain, the nurseries, and the compost. They fertilize the soil and prepare bio-fertilizers, as well as harvesting, de-pulping, fermenting, and drying the coffee.

It is very rare for women to participate in selling the coffee or making decisions on how the money from coffee sales will be used, but they do. The foundation they've set up, the Cafe Femenino Foundation supports what they call a circle of hope - the women produce the coffee, their consumers donate to the foundation, and the foundation completes the circle by providing grants to worthy projects and programs that enhance the lives of all members of the coffee producing community.

The Femenino program is showing success and the women's roles are changing. They're excited by the potential, says OPTCO, and the women of Cafe Femenino are receiving support from leaders in their communities.

Cafe Avion Coffee Roasting Co., an Organic and Fair Trade certified company, has announced it is now roasting Cafe Femenino Organic coffee.

"Femenino is a great program to be involved in and the coffee they're putting out is absolutely wonderful" says Joyce Stephenson of Cafe Avion. "As a roasting company,we want to make sure we represent their efforts in the best way possible."

Cafe Avion