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Celebrating International Women’s Day: Rakhi Bhattacharya & Fatima Ismael

One of several weather stations installed throughout Nicaragua to send farmers and cooperatives information so they can adjust farming practices accordingly.

This year’s International Women’s Day is March 8th. It is a time to reflect on, answer a calling for, and celebrate everyone’s role in helping forge a better working world for all people. LWR will be introducing you to women whose leadership is helping LWR fight poverty and support men and women farmers. We are grateful to have them be a part of the worldwide LWR family and partners. #BeBoldForChange Read part one of the series.

Rakhi Bhattacharya, India

“It’s important for LWR to work with women because 70% of agricultural tasks are done by women.”

Rakhi Bhattacharya is LWR’s Country Director for India. We celebrate Rakhi for championing work that helps women and men lift their families out of poverty. She has worked with LWR for 20 years! Rakhi was exposed to development work early in her childhood. She recalls having numerous conversations with her parents about the kind of work they did and the development organizations her father worked with. Spending time with her parents helped her realize her purpose in life – to make a beneficial difference in people’s lives.

Rakhi (far right) with the Learning for Gender Integration evaluation team in Bihar, India.

On women’s empowerment: One of LWR’s on-going projects is in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India. Women were spending eight hours weeding their family farms which caused back problems. LWR introduce a small tool to make weeding easier which reduced the time spent weeding to two hours. The men also became more interested in helping with weeding the farm after introducing the tool. “It’s important for LWR to work with women because 70% of agricultural tasks are done by women. Women are usually the caretakers and better understand the holistic needs of the family. They take great pride in providing for their family.”  Rakhi notes that there are social norms where men hold access to family finances and decision-making but once the men see how including women in family decision-making benefits rural family economies and farming, they become more welcoming to having women help make decisions at meetings and workshops.

On celebrating International Women’s Day: Since LWR’s Asia regional staff will be coming together to meet and plan, Rakhi will be celebrating the day with them. We give thanks to our supporters for making our work in India possible!

Fatima Ismael, Nicaragua

“A woman’s independence can only be achieved through economic autonomy and awareness.”

Fatima Ismael is the general manager of SOPPEXCCA, a Nicaraguan coffee cooperative. We celebrate her for championing equal decision-making in agriculture. Established in 1997, it is now one of the leading cooperatives in Nicaragua. The cooperative helps female farmers gain titles to their land and provide training on producing and marketing their own coffee. The biggest challenge that the cooperative members are facing is the changing climate which has altered rain patterns and made coffee crops more susceptible to roya, a crop disease. LWR’s project with SOPPEXCCA worked on diversifying production and improving environmental practices to combat the challenge.

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More than 40 percent of the cooperative members are female farmers and everyone is encouraged to take part in making decisions for the cooperative. Fatima believes equal decision-making  by men and women has been essential to the success of the cooperative. There is a strong emphasis on the members’ holistic well-being. The cooperative also contributes to the community by financing scholarship programs for the members’ children, providing health programs, organizing music and art classes, and constructing rural schools.

 

Fatima explaining the post-harvest processing of cocoa.