BOGOTÁ, Colombia – As a result of a collective construction, in which women themselves played a fundamental role, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) has just launched the gender equity policy for the sector, the first for an agricultural union.
The “Gender Equity Policy for Women Coffee Growers” will help reduce the persistent gaps between men and women that exist not only in the coffee sector, but also in the agricultural sector in general and even in other spheres of the country.
Its formal object is “to contribute to developing opportunities for women coffee growers by closing gender gaps that impact coffee-growing families’ well-being and the union’s productivity and competitiveness,” the text reads.
The policy was developed from a rigorous diagnosis of coffee grower households, also considering some of the main advances in the matter on a global scale.
The diagnosis confirmed that women work more hours than men if housework (unpaid) is considered; that, if they do not have a formal job, they end up dedicating themselves to this work (while men dedicate themselves to studying), or that their access to higher education is limited.
“No other union in the agricultural sector has a similar policy, which once again puts coffee growers at the forefront, for the benefit of women coffee farmers,” the FNC CEO, Roberto Vélez, said.
Policy principles and objectives
Implementation of this policy is governed by six principles: 1. Equality and non-discrimination, 2. Diversity and interculturality, 3. Autonomy and empowerment, 4. Participation, 5. Share responsibility, and 6. Sustainability.
And to achieve its objective, it sets eight strategies (each with specific lines of action): 1. Cultural transformation and redefinition of gender roles in the coffee sector, 2. Women coffee growers’ access to formal and non-formal education, 3 Autonomy and economic empowerment, 4. Participation and representation of coffee-growing women in public policy and decision-making spaces, 5. Life free from violence and access to justice, 6. Access to comprehensive health and sexual and reproductive health, 7. Mainstreaming of the gender perspective in coffee institutions, and 8. Improving housing conditions.
A Gender Equity Committee is also created at the FNC that will periodically monitor and evaluate gender equity incorporation at all organizational levels.
The history of this policy dates back to 2006, when the FNC created the “Coffee-Growing Women Program” with the mission of promoting equal opportunities between men and women across the institution.
Successive adhesions to national and international initiatives, workshops and the development of the Code of Ethics and Good Governance, among other actions, strengthened this effort until 2019, when, at the request of the women union leaders themselves and the National Congress of Coffee Growers’ mandate in 2020, a definitive momentum was given to formulation of the policy.
Information from the FNC’s Coffee Grower Household Information System (SIHC) and the Coffee Information System (Sica), a specific survey and other sources were key inputs for building the policy.
The following figures show the importance of women in the coffee sector and the gaps that still affect them:
- 30% of all coffee growers in Colombia are women: 163,046.
- 9% of members of coffee grower households are women: 687,824.
- 25% of coffee grower households are headed by women, who are more vulnerable and have more precarious housing conditions.
- Machismo is seen as the main barrier for women coffee growers.
- 79% of women coffee growers dedicate more than 5 hours to housework.
- Women participate more in preparing food for workers, while men participate more in application of agrochemicals.
- In the first quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate for rural women was 14.8% vs. 5% for rural men.
- By contracts, rural women receive 34.5% less income than men for activities in rural areas.
- The smallest farms and lots are owned by women coffee growers.
- The higher the hierarchical level, the lower the participation of women in union government.
- The main victims of violence in Colombia are women.