Joining your conviction with passion | Shirin Moayyad | TEDxLa Cote International School | Summary and Q&A

September 25, 2023
TEDx Talks
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Joining your conviction with passion | Shirin Moayyad | TEDxLa Cote International School

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In this video, the speaker shares her journey and experiences growing up in a socially aware community, witnessing social and gender inequality, and her passion for making a difference in the world. She highlights the work of Nespresso in addressing gender inequality in coffee farming communities and emphasizes the importance of equality and empowering women. The speaker encourages the students to follow their beliefs and passions to create change in the world.

Questions & Answers

Q: What experiences shaped the speaker's understanding of social injustice and inequality?

The speaker grew up in a socially aware community in Chicago and learned about the genocide in Cambodia, which sparked her desire to help refugees. Her uncle taking her to the slums of Casablanca and witnessing poverty left a lasting impression. Moving to Iran further exposed her to divisions between the rich and poor, especially when she saw a homeless man suffering in the cold.

Q: Why did the speaker decide to pursue a master's degree in development studies?

After finishing her college year abroad in India, the speaker felt a strong desire to make a difference in the world. She wanted to work for the United Nations or a nonprofit organization and help address social issues. Her goal was to gain the knowledge and skills to contribute to development initiatives.

Q: Why did the speaker choose to work in Papua New Guinea instead of completing her master's degree?

The speaker decided to give up her master's degree and stay in Papua New Guinea because she felt a strong connection to the remote mountains of the interior. She joined a local company that had coffee plantations and a roastery. Despite going against her parents' expectations, she followed her own path and embraced new learning opportunities.

Q: How did the speaker become aware of gender inequality in her work at the coffee roastery?

The speaker managed a coffee roastery in Papua New Guinea, where most of her employees were women. Out of 3,000 employees in the larger holding company, she was one of only two women in management. This led her to recognize the gender-based disparities in accessing resources, education, money, and autonomy over their own bodies.

Q: What actions does the speaker take to address gender inequality in the coffee industry?

The speaker, who now owns her own coffee roastery, prioritizes buying coffee produced by women. However, she acknowledges that as an individual roaster, her impact is limited. She feels fortunate to work at Nespresso, a trailblazing company with the size and resources to effect change. She mentions their partnership with a non-profit called TechnoServe, which created a gender analysis assessment tool to measure inequality in different coffee farming countries.

Q: What does the gender analysis assessment tool reveal about gender inequality in coffee farming communities?

The tool, used in places like Sidamo, Ethiopia, shows alarming statistics of women's lack of education. In Sidamo, 57% of women have received no education at all, while 38% have had less than primary school education. It highlights a disparity between men and women in terms of workload and financial control, where women participate in all farming steps but don't receive equal economic benefits.

Q: How does the speaker explain the importance of gender equality to the audience?

The speaker asks the audience to imagine a scenario where only half of the students organized an event, emphasizing that it wouldn't be fair or representative. She challenges the audience to think about their own experiences and reflects on women's aspirations, such as wanting to learn how to write their names. She paints a picture of the inequality women face globally and how it affects communities as a whole.

Q: How does Nespresso work toward gender equality in coffee farming communities?

Nespresso aims to increase the number of female agronomists working with farmers in coffee-producing countries. Understanding the cultural constraints women face, Nespresso ensures that the trainers are women and that the training sessions are scheduled at convenient times. By providing opportunities for women to participate in agricultural training, Nespresso helps level the playing field and enables women to contribute to their communities.

Q: What strategy did TechnoServe employ to hire more women agronomists?

TechnoServe changed their approach by offering a free week-long agronomy training course that was open to men and women. They observed the participants' performance and hired the top-performing women on the spot. This method helped overcome the initial intimidation women felt when applying for the job, resulting in Nespresso having over 50% female agronomists in Ethiopia, compared to the pan-African average of only 7%.

Q: What message does the speaker have for the students?

The speaker believes that the future is in the students' hands and encourages them to follow their beliefs and passions. She urges them to combine their convictions with their interests, as she did with her belief in equality and her love for coffee. She emphasizes that change can be made even as individuals, but working with a trailblazing company like Nespresso allows for a greater impact.


The speaker's journey and experiences highlight the importance of addressing social and gender inequality. By sharing stories of inequality in different parts of the world, she demonstrates the need for change. Nespresso's work in coffee farming communities showcases the power of a company to make a difference, particularly through initiatives that promote gender equality. The speaker's message to the students is to pursue their passions and beliefs to create positive change in the world.

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