How The Starbucks Foundation is empowering women and girls across Asia’s coffee- and tea-growing communities

Girls in Assam

Our commitment to ensuring a sustainable future of coffee for all starts with strengthening the communities that grow coffee and tea around the world. Women play key roles in these communities for their households, farms and businesses. Starbucks believes that investing in women and girls in coffee- and tea-growing regions makes a significant impact for both families and their broader communities.

Since The Starbucks Foundation announced its commitment to empower 250,000 women and girls in coffee origin communities by 2025, we, alongside our non-profit partners, have reached more than 125,000 women and girls.

According to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5, the COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated existing inequalities for women and girls – impacting everything from health, economics, security and social protection. And with women and girls often bearing a greater burden while also having the potential to make a positive impact for their families and communities, we’re dedicated to supporting them. Together with our partners, we believe we can make a difference across community leadership, education and health.

Helping women leaders keep their families healthy amidst COVID-19

Jayanti Malik Mura, a community health worker at Borbam Tea Estate in Amgoorie, Assam, is the main source of information for more than 300 families. To help women leaders like Jayanti share critical information about COVID-19 with their communities, The Starbucks Foundation and Mercy Corps launched a campaign in remote areas with little access to information.

Jayanti teamed up with other health care workers to go door-to-door, answering questions and sharing safety guidelines about face masks, handwashing and social distancing. Mercy Corps also installed loudspeakers on top of vehicles that traveled to outlying farmlands in Assam, playing pre-recorded messages on preventative measures. Together, we reached more than 110,000 people across 17 tea estates.

“The pandemic is not over yet,” said Jayanti. “While we still need to keep educating people about COVID‑19 safety measures, we must now also educate people about vaccinations and help address misconceptions or false information.”

Providing education for girls in India’s tea plantations

Since 2018, The Starbucks Foundation has made several grants to organizations working with coffee and tea communities across Asia, including Malala Fund. In Assam, India’s largest tea-producing state, only 20 percent of girls finish their secondary education. Bondita Acharya, director of the Purva Bharati Educational Trust (PBET) and a Malala Fund Education Champion, works to address this challenge, ensuring girls have access to education.

When COVID-19 triggered a national lockdown, Bondita and her team supported 1,392 families across marginalized communities with relief materials. They also addressed the rise in violence faced by girls, becoming their first point of contact, and supported children who faced remote learning barriers, documenting and sharing the experiences of women and girls in Assam. Bondita and her organization were able to build trust with the communities they work with. “PBET’s work over the years in the community generated confidence within ourselves for a collective approach [and] process in the organization, says Bondita. “That helped us to sustain during this crisis.”

Creating opportunities for lifelong learning

As girls grow up and look to the future, it’s important to promote education as a life-long endeavor. This relies on creating consistent opportunities for women to further their education, which Susi was able to do through grant programming.

Susi is a tea-leaf picker in Pangalengan, Indonesia, who participated in leadership training from CARE, a nonprofit organization. She had the opportunity to participate in a series of training sessions on gender equality, leadership, communications, problem-solving, decision-making and financial literacy. This newfound knowledge inspired Susi and her peers to adopt a new outlook on village life.

CARE and Starbucks are proud to celebrate their partnership benefitting more than 4,000 women and girls in Sukaluyu District, Indonesia to support economic empowerment and nurturing women’s leadership, financial empowerment and improve WASH governance and practices. “It is like being in school again,” said Susi. “I am happy I can increase my knowledge and learn together with other women in the group.”

Creating a healthier future for girls and women in communities

To help both girls and women thrive, community leaders must foster healthy environments for girls and women to live and learn in. To advance this vision, The Starbucks Foundation partnered with Lutheran World Relief to directly support 9,400 women-led community health and hygiene programs in Karo Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia.

For example, every Sunday at One Heart Garbage Bank in Penampen village, a group of women invites the community to bring garbage, which is then sorted into used items that can be refurbished and resold or disposed of following sanitation best practices.

Nande Wandra, a manager at One Heart, said, “My knowledge of waste management is improving and has enabled me to help others in the community have healthier homes.” These women are also excited by the opportunity to lead such an important initiative for their villages and are already seeing neighboring communities ask to be involved. They are optimistic that the garbage banks will continue to grow and engage more of their community, while continuing to improve community health and provide alternative sources for income.

Advancing opportunity, equity and inclusion for women and girls in the communities we serve

Through our work with coffee- and tea-growing communities across Asia, we’ve seen an intrinsic motivation from women to further their education and create better lives for themselves, their families and wider communities. By increasing opportunities for women and girls to learn important skills and lead in their communities, we can empower them to create more positive outcomes for themselves and their families, helping them become important role models for future generations.

thumbnail for Chacha, Assistant Manager South Korea

Chacha, Assistant Manager South Korea