International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year to recognize the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world. Equal Exchange is proud to support women-centered projects through our work with small farmer co-ops. Today we’re highlighting a few of them. From income diversity to leadership training, these projects represent the ways in which organizing can bring opportunity.
New Women’s Initiatives at the Tierra Nueva Co-op in Nicaragua
Agueda Ordenana, member of the Tierra Nueva Women's Commission
By Susan Sklar, Interfaith Program Manager
At the Tierra Nueva Union of Co-operatives in the Boaco region of Nicaragua, some new initiatives are helping women to improve their economic conditions. Delegates from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and Equal Exchange traveled to Nicaragua this past January to visit Equal Exchange´s coffee farmer partners. Members explained how they are trying to help women become active participants in the co-operative.
In Nicaragua, there’s a common understanding that the ownership of land belongs to men; when a woman marries and inherits land from her father, her husband automatically assumes control over it. But Tierra Nueva, a union of 600 small coffee and honey farmers, is making an effort to change gender relationships and inequitable practices. In 2006, Tierra Nueva applied for a grant to conduct a gender survey among its farmers. The focus groups and interviews documented what was already widely known: that the participation of women in Tierra Nueva farming co-operatives was extremely limited. As a direct result of these findings, Tierra Nueva created a gender policy program that was officially approved by the membership in October. It formally authorized the actions of the Women’s Commission, which is composed of five female representatives from the various primary coffee co-ops. (more…)
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All too often the impact of unfair agriculture and free trade policies falls most severely on the shoulders of women. Grassroots International is a human rights and international development organization that works alongside their partners to promote the rights of all people to land, water, and food. We would like to thank Blair Rapalyea, an intern with Grassroots, for the following article she posted on their blog about how current economic conditions are affecting women.
Since I started my internship with Grassroots International in May, I have come to realize the true magnitude of the food crisis. The way that the economic system produces and distributes food is leaving far too many people hungry and jobless. Throughout my research, I studied the effect that the crisis has had on women, and I believe that their role, though historically overlooked, is crucial to finding a sustainable solution. I believe, along with everyone at Grassroots International, that women’s economic and land rights are not just rights that they deserve as people, but steps that must be taken in order to bring the world out of the food crisis.
The severity of the current food crisis has shocked people all over the world and called into question the effectiveness of a free-market economy that allows so many to starve. The privatization of resources necessary to farm and the increasing price of farming supplies is forcing small farmers to abandon their work. Big agribusinesses are making huge profits as prices rise, but family farmers don’t benefit from the increased costs. Fertilizer, land, and water sources are bought up by big companies, and land formerly used to grow food is often switched to produce only corn and grain meant to make more lucrative ethanol, taking food out of the mouths of the hungry. (more…)
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