Work should be a vital route out of poverty for everyone. But for many women around the world, discrimination is holding them back, preventing them from earning a fair, decent, secure living. In Rwanda, however, change is in the air.
Their parliament is 64% female – that’s a higher proportion of women than any other parliament in the world. And with Oxfam’s help, the poorest women in Rwanda are taking up a powerful role in the country’s future too.
This is a lush, green land, where tall forests stretch up beyond the thick mists that settle in the valleys. But in the eastern province, the dry season is longer. That’s why the hardy pineapple has been a saving grace for many women farmers, with its ability to tough out those dry, harsh months.
For a long time, the pineapple farmers of Kirehe were just managing to scrape together enough money to feed their families... if they could get a local buyer for their produce. But the trade wasn’t always there and the constant worry of money was keeping the women down. Would they be able to sell enough to pay for school uniforms, books or even the transport to get the children to school? Even when they did sell enough, the traditional idea persisted that the husband controls the income and how it’s spent.
These struggles become a cycle of poverty that’s hard to break, when you’re trying to get by on your own.
So Oxfam joined forces with a cooperative called Tuzamurane – which means ‘lift one another’. Women pineapple farmers would work together to support each other, grow their income and have a say in life at home and work.
Oxfam has been helping the farmers to grow high-quality organic crops to international standards – and it’s unlocked a valuable market for the cooperative. Now they sell delicious dried pineapple overseas to Europe.
The women take a share in the profits and make decisions on future investment, like healthcare schemes for the members. And now, the good fortune is spreading even further: other farmers are learning organic farming techniques so they can supply the cooperative – and they’re getting a fair price for their produce. Tuzamurane organic pineapples sell for up to four times more.
It’s also made men think differently about their wives and the role they play in the house. Now, there’s so much more to gain from working together – in equal partnership.
The cooperative is going from strength to strength these days – with plans in place for official Fairtrade certification and the ambition to sell their amazing product in more countries around the world.
It only leaves the women farmers – and their husbands – to share the kind of impact this pineapple-powered revolution has had at home.