Supporting Women In Coffee: Grounds for Health

Our public events are often the highlight of the month at The Lab. These events usually consist of 30+ people with a wide variety coffee experience all mingling over beautiful, newly arrived or yet to arrive microlots.  There is joy in watching this cross section of coffee knowledge come together and share their stories and ideas. From the people with three generations of coffee in their blood to the barista who just got their first coffee job, or, the folks with roasteries in rural vs urban areas comparing strategies on how to defining specialty coffee within their respective communities. Whoever is in attendance, the energy in the room is always high. We at Royal NY have often wondered how to utilize this energy, information and collective consciousness to support the greater coffee community in new ways. So here is what we did…

This November we decided to do things a little differently. We used this time at the cupping table to work towards improving the lives of women in coffee. We did this by supporting two specific, yet very different groups, Grounds for Health and Las Damas de San Ignacio from Peru.

Women are a vital part of coffee production and they make up the majority of the workforce within the industry, for that reason over all others they aught to be celebrated. During this cupping at the Lab, we specifically want to support the women that make up Las Damas de San Ignacio and the women that Grounds for Health has helped, and will be helping in the future.  We went about this effort by presenting only women produced coffee on the cupping table, while raising awareness by talking about one of the biggest challenges women face at origin, Cervical Cancer. Cervical Cancer is one of the easiest to detect, treat and cure if caught early, yet many women in coffee still die from it.   

Here are the basic facts… 70% of the workforce for coffee production is made up of women. 80% of women newly diagnosed with cervical cancer live in developing countries, often the ones that coffee is produced in such as Malawi, Burundi, and Mexico. In fact, 7 out of 10 of the countries with the highest cervical cancer rates are coffee producing countries. These women are no more susceptible to cervical cancer than women in the other places, they simply do not have access to screening. In developing countries cervical cancer kills more women than any other cancer. If every woman in the world was screened for cervical cancer once in her life, cervical cancer rates would drop 30%, if they were screened twice in their life, the rates would drop 60%. Currently Grounds for Health has Screened 114,833 and Treated 9,355 women. We are grateful for their work.

Who is Grounds for Health and why support them?

“Grounds for Health works in Latin America and Africa to bring cutting-edge cervical cancer prevention to women.  They are a nonprofit that works primarily in remote coffee lands, reaching women ‘at the end of the road,’ where health services are scarce.  These women are the coffee workforce backbone. They are mothers, wives, daughters, and grandmothers who shouldn’t have to succumb to a lethal disease that is almost 100% preventable. They are not a typical relief agency. Their mission is to train, organize, and equip local practitioners to keep women healthy and stop cervical cancer deaths in their communities.”

One of the amazing things that Grounds for Health has been working on is their ‘Screen and Treat’ Model.  In these remote communities once a woman leaves the clinic they are not likely to see her again. Women being “lost to follow-up” takes on a whole new meaning when the nearest health center can be hours away. The success of the screen and treat model led to 95% of the women screened who needed treatment, received treatment.

The other group this event celebrated was “Las Damas de San Ignacio,” a group consisting of 90-100 women within COOPAFSI, a cooperative in Cajamarca, Peru. These women had created their own committee of women in order to distribute loans, manage new projects (such as community kitchens, computer labs, education and health.) These women also have a sewing/knitting club in order to create articles of clothing, blankets and supplement their income. The Las Damas group provides opportunities for the women in their community beyond coffee alone. They are board members, accountants, q-graders, and community leaders – all while being mothers, wives and hardworking coffee producers. Despite all of this hard work, the women of Las Damas are losing opportunity to produce more coffee and maintain/increase quality because of a major lack of drying space and in turn losing a large portion of their income. With limited infrastructure and resources to pour concrete drying patios, solar dryers are both cost effective and improve quality.

One of the ways we’ve worked to support the women that make up Las Damas is through a fundraising effort to purchase solar dryers for them.  You can read more about this effort and the COOP on our recent blog post.

This unique event ended up being a wonderful celebration of women in coffee with attendees receiving beautiful glass coffee beans provided by Grounds for Health…as well as some with gift basket & raffle prizes too. Money was raised for both efforts through a raffle as well as through direct donations. Most importantly awareness was raised in regards to women’s health at origin and the amazing work Grounds for Health is doing. For more information about Grounds for Health, including donations, please check out their website.

For more information and ways to support the fundraiser for Las Damas de San Ignacio, check out our gofundme campaign or check out our blog on the campaign and share it with others! Thank you for your support!

T-Shirts signed by event attendees and sent to Las Damas de San Ignacio