Young girls who live in countries of the Global South often grow up in communities where gender discrimination is prominent and child labor can be widespread. Efforts by local Fairtrade cooperatives and other organizations are helping empower young girls to develop themselves and face their challenges.
Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights.
United Nations Resolution 66/170
In 2011, the UN established the International Day of the Girl to promote girls’ empowerment and highlight the daily issues that young girls around the world face. We’re proud to share the stories of two young women from cooperatives who have embraced leadership roles and advocate for young girls in their communities. Thanks to efforts by CLAC, Fairtrade International and partner organizations, communities are addressing gender inequality, child labor and other human rights issues.
Teresa Buendía, 31 years old, El Salvador
Teresa Buendía is a member of La Fortuna, a Fairtrade certified coffee cooperative in El Salvador. As a young girl on the farm, she has fond memories of visiting her family’s plot where they grew coffee. When she turned 27, Teresa was selected to participate in the Women’s Leadership School, a program developed by CLAC and TRIAS.
"I never imagined how participating in that school was going to change my life so completely,” she says. Teresa saw herself as too shy and often lacked the courage to share her opinions.
After listening to the stories of how other women in the group had achieved their goals, she realized becoming a leader wasn’t a process that happened overnight. Teresa could see herself in these women and those stories were the trigger that led her to make a firm decision "to overcome herself and her fears. If they can, I will too."
From that moment, Teresa has gone through an enriching process of finding her voice and helping other women find their voice as well. She now leads the Youth Committee at her the local cooperative where she and her family are still members. The committee has created a nursery to reforest portions of the mountain range where they live. She’s also part of the Board of Directors of CESSPPO, the National Fair Trade Platform in El Salvador.
With what she has learned, Teresa is able to share her experience with other girls and women so that they can improve their position in the community and the organization.
Virginia Salinas, 26 years old, Paraguay
Virginia and her family are members of the Asociación de Productores de Caña de Azúcar de Independencia (APCAI), a Fairtrade sugar cooperative in Paraguay.
In 2014, Virgina joined APCAI as part of a 3-month internship. Following her internship, the cooperative had received a proposal to develop a pilot project in monitoring and remediation systems for the eradication of child labor. As a young person familiar with the challenges around child labor in the community and the daughter of a co-op member, Virginia was selected to lead implementation of the program. Virginia worked hard to develop the program and was eventually hired as the Administrative Secretary at her co-op. She was also recently elected to serve as secretary on the Board of Directors.
When Virginia began her leadership journey, she did not have self-confidence living in a typically "machista" country like Paraguay.
“Thanks to Fairtrade, this is changing as men have ceded more responsibility. The system gives equal opportunity for both sexes,” she said. Virginia added that taking part in the Fairtrade system has given her the opportunity to grow as a person and learn through various workshops and trainings.
Article originally published by Fairtrade America here.