March is Women’s History Month in the US, the UK and Australia. It was created to highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. I have long been a feminist and have greatly appreciated and have benefited from women that have fought for women’s rights. Growing up in the US in a middle-class family, I rarely wanted for anything, and education (including university) was a given. However, working and living in Guatemala has given me a whole new perspective on what it is to be a woman and just how lucky I have been in life.
I was talking with one of the women from the community the other day and was surprised by some of the information she shared with me – that she only had three years of schooling. After being here for over 2 years, I’m not sure why it surprised me, as it’s a common story here. Her family was unable to pay for her schooling (it’s free in Guatemala, but families need to pay for uniforms, books, supplies, etc. which are normally too expensive for them) so she had to drop out and start working. She told us that all she can do is sign her name; she’s unable to read. So much for that note we left for her regarding what we wanted her to do. How many times have I made that mistake unknowingly?
This particular woman and her husband have 6 children (5 of which are girls). They want their children to have better lives than they have had, so they have placed the utmost importance on education and have been willing to work hard and make sacrifices. In many respects, it reminds me of stories my grandparents would tell me about living through The Great Depression and the sacrifices they all made. Seeing and experiencing the work ethic here, I have a deep respect for the people with whom I work.
Women perform over half of the world’s work, produce half the world’s food and yet they represent 70% of the world’s poor. In order to alleviate these issues, those that are directly affected must be involved in the solution. This is why De la Gente is partnering with BFB Foundation to help lift women out of poverty and break the cycle.
The BFB Foundation’s goal is to educate and empower women through financial education. They believe that a woman who understands how to use, save, and invest her money wisely will have a great impact on her family and her community. One woman can positively alter the outcomes of generations to follow.
Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America and it is a country in transition. Since its 36-year-long civil war ended in 1996, the Guatemalan government and people have been working toward a greater presence in the world economy. Yet despite advances in that direction, more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, and 13 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty. Among Guatemala’s indigenous groups, which make up 38 percent of the population, those numbers climb even higher with 73 percent living below the poverty line and 28 percent living in extreme poverty.
In 2014, De la Gente, with help from BFB, created the Women’s Fund. We financed the purchase of coffee land for three women. These women are able to grow their businesses, which in turn means they are able to pay for education for their children and other things most of us consider basics. We plan to grow the Women’s Fund in 2015 and the foreseeable future, helping more and more women and families break the cycle of poverty.
In Guatemala, I have met so many amazing women that you will never read about in any history book, but will have a huge impact on many. I’m lucky that I get to be a small part of that change and to know these inspirational women. Want to help? Donate at www.dlgcoffee.org/donate-today and/or come visit us and meet these amazing women.
by Mindy Grantham