International Women's Day 2018

International Women’s Day (IWD) is looking to push a #pressforprogress message this year as it looks to build on strong global momentum around gender parity. With movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp and a focus on the gender pay gap in countries including the UK where businesses will soon be forced to publish their gap, IWD is hoping 2018 is a year when society and business can move beyond support and push for real change.

“There is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity,” says the IWD. “Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity.”

And brands are reflecting this in their campaigns and initiatives this year. No longer simply focused on raising awareness of the issue they are pushing for real change whether it is Diageo joining Free The Bid and demanding women are featured on the shortlist for directors of its ads to Union Coffee highlighting the changing role of women in coffee production with a specialist blend. Others including Brewdog and Boohoo are raising funds or donating money to causes that support female empowerment.

Here’s just a taste of what brands are doing this year.

Union highlights the changing role of women in coffee with specialist blend

Women performing a welcome dance as the Maraba washing station in Rwanda. Credit: Alan Schaller

Union Hand-Roasted Coffee has developed a Rwandan microlot coffee, which is made exclusively by female producers in the region.

The East London-based coffee business is helping to support female coffee producers in places like Rwanda and Guatemala, where historically the industry has been very male dominated. It is doing so by ensuring women have access to equal ownership and employment conditions, with the aim of empowering women at all levels of the supply chain.

Pascale Schuit, Union’s coffee sourcing and sustainable relationship manager, says: “International Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the many women who make Union Hand-Roasted Coffee a reality, and on the true impact Union has had at origin.”

She says the company sees an intrinsic link between sustainable best practice and the quality of its coffee, which is ensured through its Union Direct Trade model. As part of the initiative the business guarantees payment of at least 25% above the Fairtrade minimum price and it works alongside coffee growing communities to increase quality and quantity of yield, as well as improving working conditions.

Venantia Mukakalisa, is a member of the Maraba Cooperative in Rwanda and took over the family coffee farm when her husband was killed in the Rwandan genocide.

She says: “Back when I first joined the Maraba Cooperative, there weren’t as many women and we didn’t realise the importance of producing quality coffee. With Union’s support, there are more women now and we produce better coffee, making a significant difference to our lives.”

The cooperatives Union works with in Rwanda, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Ethiopia all have women in senior leadership positions, from managers to coffee tasters. The business also visits origin countries several times…