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Inspirational leadership – Women in coffee working together to improve the lives of women and their communities around the world

Every once in a while there is an experience that is so incredible it’s hard to know how to describe it. This is the situation with my recent trip to El Salvador in Central America. I was asked to do a keynote speech at the International Women’s Coffee Alliance Convention. The IWCA is an organization that strives to create a difference in the world of coffee. Their mission is to “empower women in the international coffee community to achieve meaningful and sustainable lives; and to encourage and recognize the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry.” The IWCA is focused on promoting possibilities for women in coffee communities throughout the world. It was quite an honor to be asked to speak and it was equally interesting to attend the conference.
It is important to put in perspective a fact about coffee that I found very interesting; coffee is the second most commonly traded commodity in the world, second only to crude oil. There are a lot of complexities about the world trade practices regarding coffee. It was fascinating to learn about coffee ‘futures’ and, also, about how coffee production is affected by the weather and other aspects of supply and demand. I was riveted by the presentations about fair trade and how it is changing over time.
I had the opportunity to spend the weekend prior to the convention in the rainforest at a coffee farm in the mountains above San Salvador. This particular farm had a mill that processed beans for other farms around the region. We were able to watch as the coffee was laid out on the patio and continually raked to help the drying process. There were many activities taking place that were necessary for processing the beans.
Learning about the coffee industry was very interesting to say the least. But I have to say learning about what the women leaders in the IWCA are doing to empower women from their countries to become self-sufficient and help provide a better life for their families and their communities was simply amazing. There were 17 countries represented throughout the convention. Their leadership in their communities is making a real difference in the lives of the women, children and communities that they are assisting. Part of the conference included traveling to a coffee farm. There were six farms that hosted participants so everyone could see firsthand what was happening at the origin of the coffee that is produced. After visiting the coffee farm we all went to a school where we were greeted by rows of young children clapping to welcome us. The students showed us their school and performed a traditional coffee dance. The school is supported in part by the local women coffee farmers. They assist in many different ways. One of the coffee farmers donated land to build a school so the children in their area would not have to walk two hours to get to school in a distant (or remote) town. These women leaders understand that in order to improve life for the community the children must get an education so they are helping to make that a possibility.
These women represented both their ability to run a thriving, successful coffee business, and the leadership to help make their communities better through supporting the women and their families. In addition, through the IWCA there are many ways the women help each other. Some countries are more developed with coffee production than others so the women freely share their best practices and ideas so all can improve various aspects of their business.
I went to the convention with the intention of inspiring the group about leadership and diversity and left the convention completely inspired. They are showing the true power of diversity by bringing together women from all over the world with different cultures, backgrounds, personalities and gifts to reach out to one another and collectively improve the quality of life for women. When I think about the dynamic of these women coming together, I know that whatever they set their intentions to do will indeed be done. They are powerful, smart, creative and heartfelt leaders and it was an honor to spend the week in their presence and learn about the work they are doing around the world.

10 Responses to Inspirational leadership – Women in coffee working together to improve the lives of women and their communities around the world

  1. Kim, you were perfect for our group. I only wish we had time for a complete workshop with you. The women loved the exercise. As a founder of IWCA this conference was amazing to see in action, and you sincerely made it extraordinary. Best Regards Karen

  2. Kim, this is a very well done article, you are really an inspiration, we all learned from each other, exchanged experiences and met different cultures that most of us have something in common….coffee!
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and your precious time with us.

  3. Gaby Bolaños says:

    Thank you for coming, Kim, it was nice to have you here. It seems to have been, for you, one of those moments that teach us that nothing that is well-intentioned goes unrewarded.
    I think I did not get the chance to thank you for the gift you left with Lucía, it was a very nice detail.
    I have not read your book yet but when I do you can be sure I will COMMENT on it!

  4. I loved your conference and mini-workshop, but mostly I love the fact defended the professional success without leaving aside the equally important role as women and mother as you described. Really Kim Box INSPIRES US!

    A big hug, and keep in touch!

    Saludos desde Honduras!!!

  5. Grace Mena says:

    Excellent summary Kim. This event was truly an inspiration for all of us and we greatly appreciate your participation. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and knowledge with us. You are an excellent human being. Wish you the best, gm

  6. Mery Santos says:

    Kim, IWCA was fortunate to have you at the Comference. You were a big part on making a difference on all the women that attended. I have heard so many positive things. Your book has become an inspirational bible to us, to follow our passions and dreams. You have now sisters all around the world of Women in Coffee.

  7. Josiane Cotrim Macieira says:

    I am in Brazil and your book is travelling with me. I read and read it again. Last Friday, a group of 16 women in coffee, from different accents from different Brazilian regions and different sectors of the coffee industry, were together to elect a board of directors following the IWCA protocol to create the Brazilian IWCA chapter. Without your mini workshop in El Salvador it wouldn’t have been like this. I learned how important diversity is. Thanks, Kim and warmest regards from Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

    • Marisa Rabelo Werner says:

      Kim, be present at this conference was an honor, a precious opportunity to learn. you shine.
      Manhumirim, Minas Gerais,Brasil.

  8. Kim,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and mentoring with us all at the conference. You were a huge piece of our shared success as women in coffee. We come together; empowering, building, growing as individuals, as sisters, as communities. It is inspiring to me and I can only hope to, in turn, share those experiences with others to together create one global IWCA community.

  9. Jane Bella Magombe says:

    woven leadership,was so new and yet so familier.we were very happy having you at our convention.we loof forwod to sharing more with you. may you be blessed more and more.i m already working out a strategy of sharing with women in coffee.

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