Finding their voices unheard at a mixed-gender cooperative, the women of the Kokowagayo cooperative separated their coffee from the men’s in 2014 and began the first women-only cooperative in Sumatra.
These women knew they would make more community-focused decisions than the men when deciding where to allocate the Fair Trade premiums. To further drive women-controlled funds to their families and communities, and to nurture space where women can share their ideas and wield exclusive decision-making power, the women of Kokowagayo started the Café Femenino Sumatra Program in 2015. While women in Sumatra have always carried key roles in coffee production, they had been excluded from economic decision-making. By taking the bold step of creating their own women-only cooperative and joining Café Femenino, the women not only earn more money for their hard work, they also have the ability to decide where the money goes. Since starting the Café Femenino Sumatra Program, the women have used their increasing resources to, among other things, offer leadership and financial training to women coffee farmers, set aside capital for women’s entrepreneurial efforts, and even build a community center above their wet mill to provide a safe space for women to congregate to learn new skills.
With their renewed confidence, pride and capabilities, the women of the Café Femenino Sumatra Program have not wasted any time in transforming their community for the better. In only two years’ time, some notable successes include: land rights, women leadership, and entrepreneurial efforts.
Women in Sumatra have always conducted the majority of the labor involved in coffee production. Women traditionally plant, prune, fertilize, harvest, and dry the coffee. However, because men are the owners of the land, they were the ones to sell the coffee once it was prepared by the women. Since women can only buy or inherit land, they are unable to legally share a land title with their husband. The women of Café Femenino Sumatra found an innovative way to break from this tradition: Each member collected a statement affidavit by the male land owner (her father or husband), granting authority for her to use the land. Since she has the authority to use the land, she now has the ability to sell her own coffee. This has been a key step in granting the women full authority over their livelihoods and businesses.
As all members are women, all of the leadership positions at the Café Femenino Sumatra Program are held by women. This includes the Chairwoman,Treasurer, Chair Supervisor, 4 Coffee Collectors and 8 Delegates. These leaders have a wealth of experience in the coffee and nonprofit sectors, experience that they’re strengthening with continuous workshops and training opportunities that further hone their business skills and alter the gender dynamics of their region.
To help diversify their income, the women have created an entrepreneurship program that provides women with the resources and training necessary to grow and sell non-coffee commodities when the coffee harvest is complete. These non-coffee commodities include vegetables, fruits and livestock.