Brewing a more Balanced Cup: Supply Chain Perspectives on Gender Transformative Change within the Coffee Value Chain

Alissa Bilfield, David Seal, Donald Rose


Shifts in global agriculture have led more women into formal roles in the coffee industry as small-holder producers and cooperative members. Inclusion of women in these institutions, however, does not guarantee a change in historical power relations, or the benefits that might flow from this. A transformative change in gender relations not only requires changes in women's attitudes and capacities and in the relationships between men and women, but also progress at the institutional and structural levels, a topic which has been infrequently studied. To address this gap, this paper explores institutional perspectives of stakeholders in the supply chain of a fair-trade organic coffee federation located in the western highlands of Guatemala. Major themes emerged from the interviews regarding women's inclusion in the industry, gender sensitization, women's empowerment, and supply chain
support. The study finds that empowering women as productive cooperative members requires not only technical assistance and support, but also creation of an inclusive social and political environment that supports expanded choices for women and men. The paper expands our understanding of the historical context and current institutional dynamics that are fueling gender transformative change in the coffee industry. The conclusions find that this type of approach may lead to more than just superficial gender integration, and has the potential to result in the genuine integration of women into previously male-dominated organizations and the eventual percolation of
society-wide shifts in gender norms, moving towards a more equitable society.


Fair trade; gender; coffee; supply chain; agricultural cooperatives

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ISSN 1869-6945


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