October is Fair Trade Month, and we want to lift up one of our long-time Fair Trade partners: Equal Exchange. In their honor, every Tuesday we are sharing the stories of farmers whose lives are changed by your faithful support of Fair Trade. This week hear the story of Eulalia Palomino, who leads the Women, Gender and Family program for COCLA, a coffee cooperative in Peru. Fair Trade premiums help sustain the women’s program, which consists of trainings and activities to benefit women and, in turn, their families and communities.
Here in the US, many complain about getting up early, a long commute, or a busy day – but these groans often pale in comparison to a typical day for Eulalia Palomino. She said women often start their days at 3 a.m. to cook breakfast, get kids dressed and ready for school, feed the domestic animals, wash the family’s clothes, cook lunch, and carry it to the husbands and other workers – which could be a two-hour walk away. If it’s the harvest season, they’ll stay and help harvest the coffee. Then they leave the field, carrying a basket of coffee. After the walk back to the house, the women cook dinner, feed the animals, and tidy the household. The women are the last to go to bed.
“It’s unending,” Eulalia said. “Despite the fact that women do so many things — it’s the woman who carries most the weight in making the household function — but it’s always the man who is viewed higher.” She said women have been traditionally left out because they haven’t had the same opportunity for education as men. For that reason, the women’s program emphasizes educational trainings for women.
“There are a lot of women who don’t know how to read or write,” Eulalia said. “A lot of times they’re discriminated against because of that. So we at least teach them how to sign their names. I always say knowledge is power.”
The program also includes steps to improve the physical living conditions for women in the home. For example, wood is burned over a clay stove in a small space, and lung disease among women is common. The women’s program started a pilot project to put new, cleaner stoves in homes.
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In addition, the program offers women low-interest loans. Coffee is the main source of income for the families, but beans are only purchased once a year, so women must often find other sources for income – and the loans are a big help. “The women can use the loan to do whatever they want – they can sell fruit, they can choose to open a store, buy additional animals, or cultivate flowers,” Eulalia said. “This allows women to bring some money home so there’s more appreciation for them.”
This is how your purchase of Fair Trade coffee makes a difference in the lives of those we are called to serve around the world. The work that Eulalia and her women’s programs do in their community is made possible by your congregation’s witness to Christ’s love by serving and selling Fair Trade coffee. Come back on Thursday to see how LWR staff are using Fair Trade products from the LWR Coffee Project for fun and delicious recipes!
Win a Coffee Hour Makeover
Post a picture of your congregation’s coffee hour or Fair Trade Coffee sales on our Facebook page. We will draw one congregation’s name at random who will receive a $250 gift certificate from Equal Exchange to upgrade your coffee hour.