Empowering Women in Coffee:  IWCA’s Expanding Network and Impact

The International Women’s Coffee Alliance is empowering women in the coffee industry through its global network and strategic initiatives, with new chapters in Spain and Greece.

BY VASILEIA FANARIOTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT

The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) is a global network dedicated to empowering women in the coffee industry. With a mission to promote inclusion, equality, and sustainable practices, the IWCA continues to grow and make a significant impact worldwide. Each year, new chapters are established, reflecting the organization’s efforts to support women in coffee and foster a more equitable coffee community.

Today, we take a closer look at IWCA’s recent efforts through its expanding global network, strategic initiatives, and impactful collaborations.

From chapter relations manager to now serving as executive director, Blanca María Castro has been leading IWCA’s global impact. Photo courtesy of IWCA.

IWCA Celebrates 20 Years of Empowerment 

The seventh IWCA Convention took place last October in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Over 300 participants from 26 chapters celebrated the organization’s 20th anniversary together. Executive Director Blanca María Castro, reflecting on her journey from chapter relations manager to her current role, expresses immense pride in the accomplishments of the IWCA community. 

She emphasizes the resilience and commitment of the women involved. “2023 was a testament to the strength and resilience of the women in coffee organizations that gather under the umbrella of IWCA Global,“ Blanca says.

IWCA Spain launched with enthusiasm in Barcelona, Madrid, and beyond. Photo courtesy of IWCA Spain.

The IWCA’s mission to empower women in the coffee industry is evident through its strategic efforts to expand its network. As of 2024, IWCA boasts 35 chapters worldwide. This expansion reflects the organization’s dedication to fostering a more inclusive and equitable coffee industry.

Spain and Greece Join IWCA’s Global Network

Last May, the IWCA announced the addition of Spain as its newest chapter, expanding its global network to 34 chapters. Diana Maria Ayala and Chantal Demonty of IWCA Spain share, “For us in Spain, belonging to IWCA means being part of an international community that shares our values, commitment, and purpose with gender equality in the coffee industry.“

Greece’s rich coffee culture meets IWCA’s mission for inclusivity and empowerment. Photo courtesy of IWCA Greece.

The successful inaugural networking event, with participants from major cities like Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, and Valencia, highlighted the chapter’s enthusiasm and dedication.

During the World of Coffee Copenhagen event, Greece also joined IWCA, becoming the 35th chapter in this ever-growing alliance. Marilena Kouidou, president of the Greek chapter, says, “Our ultimate goal is to see more women join and succeed in the industry. We believe the time has come for such an initiative in our country, as society increasingly recognizes the importance of integration in all areas. We aim to have more women involved throughout the coffee value chain, and although Greece is a small country, it has a very significant coffee culture. As part of IWCA, we are committed to driving this change and making a meaningful impact.“

Blanca María Castro with the Greek chapter of IWCA at World of Coffee Copenhagen. Photo courtesy of IWCA Greece.

Innovating for the Future

The IWCA’s efforts to empower women in coffee-producing communities are supported by various training and development programs. For example, in Marcala, Honduras, the IWCA completed phase one of a community library renovation project, which included essential upgrades and a book drive. Phase two will focus on establishing training programs at the refurbished library. 

Furthermore, IWCA recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Rainforest Alliance. “This partnership represents a significant step towards advancing sustainability and supporting coffee farmers, who are the vital heart of each cup of coffee,” says IWCA in their announcement. “Through this collaboration, IWCA and Rainforest Alliance aim to empower everyone along the coffee value chain with the knowledge and resources needed to promote the health of the planet.“

IWCA and Rainforest Alliance collaborate for a sustainable coffee future. Photo courtesy of IWCA.

In terms of infrastructure, the IWCA’s strategic plan for 2023-2027 focuses on sustainable growth and improved communication within its network. The implementation of new customer relationship management software and a digital donation platform, titled GiveButter, aim to bridge global chapter gaps and enhance collaboration. 

Through strategic initiatives, comprehensive training programs, and impactful international collaborations, the IWCA is charting a dynamic path toward a more inclusive and equitable coffee industry. With a robust plan for sustainable growth, enhanced communication infrastructure, and innovative partnerships, the IWCA is not just envisioning a better future for women in coffee—they are actively creating it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vasileia Fanarioti (she/her) is a senior online correspondent for Barista Magazine and a freelance copywriter and editor with a primary focus on the coffee niche. She has also been a volunteer copywriter for the I’M NOT A BARISTA NPO, providing content to help educate people about baristas and their work.

Cover of June + July 2024 issue of Barista Magazine featuring Mikael Jasin of Indonesia.

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