It’s International Women’s Day today and, for the last three weeks we’ve been becoming inspired by some brilliant women who are creating change in their communities. They’re all women who show us just how to #BeBoldForChange.
Today, we profile another leader, Rizkani Ahmad (Annie). Annie is Chairwoman of Koperasi Kopi Wanita Gayo women’s coffee cooperative in Sumatra, Indonesia, and is dedicated to securing the rights of the farmers who work alongside her by investing in healthcare and extensive training. Here’s how she’s standing up for change with her cooperative, the first all-women coffee cooperative in Southeast Asia.
“My hope for my children is that they will learn from the women in our cooperative to create a system that gives back. I want them to continue what I’ve started. I want everyone to work together to protect the environment and overall produce better coffee.”
Annie’s dream is one where everyone works to produce something greater than themselves. It may seem idealistic but with passion and insight like hers, she knows the steps to take to achieve it. As Chairwoman of the Gayo Women’s Coffee Cooperative – a role she’s held for almost three years – Annie is able to set the cogs in motion and address the gaps she sees in her community. And as the owner of a farm herself – she has a plot of one hectare – she understands farmers’ needs.
It’s an essential leadership role and Annie is bold in the face of creating change for the women she works with every day, helping to empower them in their communities and develop their voices in the realm of business.
Giving women a voice
Since it became certified in 2015 – just one year after it was set up – the cooperative has provided essential training and work opportunities for women across Sumatra. Before Fairtrade, accessing this level of assistance was difficult – as it is for many women, who do not have access to a proper support network or the money they need.
To be in the cooperative, the women have to own land – but this was no easy feat right at the beginning. About a third of the original members inherited land from their parents. However double this amount had the huge task of persuading their husband to give them land ownership rights.
Fairtrade funds go directly back to the women
But Annie says that Fairtrade certification helps to directly address her needs and those of all the women. As Annie’s own coffee farm and the cooperative of farmers she oversees has become certified, the Fairtrade funds have been used directly by the women for healthcare and for the kids.
“The voices on how to use the Premiums come from the women within the communities,” says Annie. Community members can choose democratically where the income from their hard work goes. “With the funds for women’s reproductive health, we’ve raised a proposal with the Premium Committee and this will be something that will be formed within two years.”
But the biggest impact that becoming Fairtrade has had on Annie’s own life is at a personal level. “Recently I’ve obtained pruning, composting and fertilisation training and on money management for the household,” she says. “I’ve become more active with the society and my neighbourhood – this means I have an in-depth knowledge of my neighbourhood and the challenges they have in growing coffee. I also know how to address these issues.”
In terms of the needs of the kids, this revolves around education. For almost a year now, families nearby are able to send their kids to kindergartens that have been supported by a women’s organisation and by the Fairtrade Premium.
Annie has a message for all of us over here in Australia and New Zealand. “It’s important to buy Fairtrade,” she says with a smile. “I hope all the coffee roasters want to buy Fairtrade coffee, especially from Sumatra and especially from the Gayo Women Coffee Cooperative. This way, they can support Gayo and work to improve the livelihoods of our women.”
It’s International Women’s Day but that doesn’t mean we’re forgetting these women – or the other thousands of strong women who are creating change on a daily basis. At Fairtrade, we’re dedicated to gender equality and to seeing all people get a fair go without barriers.
How are you celebrating this International Women’s Day? Let us know on Facebook, where we’ve also shared a few more inspiring stories.
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