April 29, 2011 – Houston, Texas at the International Women's Coffee Alliance (IWCA) dinner held in conjunction with the Specialty Coffee Association of America Conference, women leaders in coffee from Dominican Republic and Burundi signed Letters of Understanding to be recognized as IWCA chapters.
Ms. Marie Isabel Balbuena, President IWCA-Dominican Republic and Ms. Isabelle Sinamenye, President, IWCA-Burundi along with chapter members from their countries were honored by over one hundred guest representing IWCA established chapter members from Central and South America, volunteers, and supporters.
The process of becoming a chapter takes several steps that start with casual socializations and moves into the establishment of officers, bylaws, conducting needs assessments, strategic planning and legalization. In some countries this process can take several years depending on available resources. IWCA believes in success through localization where national chapters are comprised of women and men representing the coffee supply chain. Becoming a legal entity allows the organization to have a voice in their country. IWCA Chapter Relations Chairperson, Johanna Bot states, "It's essential for our chapters to reach out for support from their local coffee organizations, companies, governments, and NGOs. Both Dominican Republic and Burundi are great examples of building national relationships to advance women in coffee."
The dinner was sponsored by Java Pura Coffee Roasters, illy and SmartCup. In addition, the International Trade Center, through its Women and Trade Programme provides assistance for the formation of IWCA chapters in East Africa. The USAID Burundi Agribusiness Project (BAP) under the direction of Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI) and Michigan State University collaborated with Burundi's coffee development Authority, ARFIC, and its newly formed trade organization, InterCafe Burundi, to support the formation of IWCA Burundi, the first African Chapter of IWCA to become a legally recognized entity.
About the IWCA: The IWCA is a peer-to-peer volunteer network of women (and men) dedicated to empowering and enriching the lives of women in the coffee industry along the entire supply chain through collaboration, education, training, workshops, fundraising and sponsorship opportunities. Mission Statement: 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.