Unlearning and Learning about Gender: new tools for working on women’s empowerment in the coffee sector

Participants in one of the training sessions during a gender role exercise.


Twenty-one organizations from the Honduran coffee sector have participated in the “Gender Course for Coffee Producers’ Organizations“, an initiative developed within the framework of the agreement”Promoting local competitiveness for the reduction of poverty in vulnerable populations through sustainable and inclusive value chains in Western Honduras“, implemented by CESAL and the ETEA Foundation with funds from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID).

This training program aims to strengthen the participants’ knowledge of gender, from the perspective of community feminism and feminist economics, as well as to promote reflection and analysis from the realities of each participant on the situation of women in the coffee-growing areas of Western Honduras. Finally, the participants will design an action plan for gender mainstreaming in the coffee organizations and cooperatives that they represent.

The program’s methodology includes different strategies aimed at a collective construction of knowledge, a process oriented to unlearning and learning. With the completion of this course, the participating organizations have been given new tools to work under a gender focus, to carry out concrete activities in the search for a value chain that reduces oppression and that shows in each of its spaces, real opportunities for women’s empowerment.

The course sessions have been held in Corquín Copán and La Labor Ocotepeque, municipalities in western Honduras, with four two-day meetings per municipality.

The role of women in the Honduran coffee industry

In Honduras, 95% of coffee farming is in the hands of small-scale producers, with around 120,000 families making a living from coffee, according to data from the Honduran Coffee Institute (IHCAFE). In this sector, women still represent only 20% (according to IHCAFÉ data for the 2019/20 harvest); however, they occupy barely 10% of positions at management levels.

Despite the fact that women are present in all links of the coffee value chain, their proportion is lower than in the case of men as they face different barriers: economic, social, political, psychological, organizational and technological. According to the Coffee Quality Institute (2017), women are mainly involved in the initial stages of the coffee process (plant care, harvesting, processing and grading) while men star in transportation, marketing and sales, capturing and controlling revenues. Women do not enjoy the same access to resources and assets, nor do they have the same voice in decisions; moreover, they carry a disproportionate burden of roles inside and outside the household (Accerenzi and Duke 2018).

Therefore, it is necessary to design strategies aimed at improving both the conditions and position of women in the Honduran coffee sector.