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Revolutionary Fund to Recognize the Value of Women’s Unpaid Work

A momentous action for gender equality and economic justice came into being and called to mind the roots of fair trade. Thanksgiving Coffee Company had the privilege of being at its epicenter eight years ago.

For 20 years Thanksgiving has purchased green coffee beans from the farmer co-operative Soppexca in Jinotega, Nicaragua. Under the leadership of Fátima Ismael who believes that ‘woman’s independence can only be achieved through economic autonomy and awareness,’ Soppexcca became the first coffee farm to enact an initiative to pay women for their unrecognized work.

Thanksgiving Coffee Companies Co-founder Joan Katzeff wrote about her visit to Nicaragua in her post Women in Coffee part one.

This initiative was created with Etico, the Ethical Trading Company in 2013 and was part of the agricultural cooperatives, charities, and consumer companies they work with for one common goal – to raise the quality of life for those who most need it. In this case, the focus was on the unpaid work of women who make up 49.58% of the world’s population, yet are disproportionately represented among the most marginalized.

Despite making significant, often unrecognized, contributions to their local economies and to economic development, women face multiple and overlapping barriers in terms of access to education, information, decision-making power, or earning power.

To understand these limitations we need to look at how gender equality plays out in the economic landscape of the 21st century. When the GDP (Gross Domestic Products) was created in 1953, the global economy has only included transactions where money changed hands. According to a recent UN Report, the monetary value of unpaid care work is estimated to be 10 to over 50 percent of the GDP.  An article from B of A reported in May 2021 this total was estimated to be $11 trillion per year.

If we look on a global scale it is estimated that 2/3 of the world’s work is unrecognized and uncompensated, and women do between 60-70% more of that work than men. (For a great overview take a look at this video The unpaid work that GDP ignores — and why it really counts by Marilyn Waring.)

The Nicaraguan initiative aims to address the link between paid and unpaid work. For Thanksgiving Coffee Company this translates into an additional $0.10 per pound above the standard price paid for green coffee. To date, this has totaled $30,000 paid into the women’s fund.

The Cooperative uses these funds to empower women by making organizational, financial, and educational resources available to them. Here are a few examples: Independence and security of having savings in their name, more women are joining the cooperative as full members, a positive example of development for youth and the next generation.

The groundbreaking Unrecognized Work of Women Fund is exactly the type of work that is built into the heart of our mission, to use coffee for social, environmental, and economic justice. The women of Soppexcca say it’s working, and we see the change. If you want to go deeper into the origin you can read the doctoral paper “Pricing Fair Trade Products to Include Unpaid Labour and Empower Women – the Example of Nicaraguan Sesame and Coffee Cooperatives” by Felicity Butler, Catherine Hoskyns, Nicholas Hoskyns.

To try Soppexcca’s Organic and Fair Trade coffee from Nicaragua you can either purchase the Flor de Jinotega or our Bee Bold Cause Coffee in Dark and Medium, which uses their coffee as the main bean in the blend.