Efforts to include gender-sensitive programming began in 2012, when Lutheran World Relief focused on improving gender equity among its staff. That led to a review of programming and how gender imbalance is addressed in its development work.
“There was a recognition, when we looked at our agriculture programs, that the majority of our beneficiaries were men,” says Carolyn Barker-Villena, senior director for LWR’s Latin America programs. “We needed to be more intentional about integrating women into our work and also to address gender inequities in the communities we were working in, particularly among farmer organizations.”
An initial pilot project focused on ensuring farming cooperatives met women farmers’ needs in three countries, including Nicaragua. The pilots ended in 2015, but a new follow up study found women farmers and their families continue to benefit from the cooperatives in Nicaragua that were part of the program, and that household savings is higher than in areas where gender has not been considered.
A grant from the Ford Foundation allowed Lutheran World Relief to validate further its gender integration approach with farmer cooperatives across Latin America. One of the results of this validation process is a suite of online resources that ushers farmer organizations through an evaluation process of their gender policies and provides guidance for becoming more gender integrated. These resources are open to any farmer organization and are being applied by LWR in programs such as the Starbucks Foundation-funded “Women In New Emerging Coffee Regions in Colombia,” or WIN project.
The WIN project is focused on empowering women in Tolima, Colombia through improved sanitation and greater economic opportunity. The project will strengthen local women’s associations, increase access to finance through micro-loans, and promote women’s leadership in cooperatives through gender-integration training, ultimately reaching 3,000 people.
“We believe women and their families have the potential to empower and transform coffee communities long-term,” said Kelly Goodejohn, Starbucks Vice President Global Coffee, Tea and Cocoa. “Increasing access to education, economic opportunities and clean water and sanitation is critical to progress the future of women, their families and generations to come.”