All over the world, women are the backbone of local economies and agricultural work. In fact, nearly half of all agricultural workers globally are women. At the same time, women are often held back by deep-seated social norms that prevent them from advancing their position in society. This is especially true for women throughout rural landscapes in Mesoamerica where local economies are largely dependent on natural resource-based value chains. In these communities, women have limited access to training opportunities, they often do not receive adequate pay for their labor, and they have trouble voicing their needs due to limited representation in cooperatives and farmer and workers’ associations. In addition, women have less access to land than men and limited ownership over productive resources, including tools and equipment, or inputs, such as seeds and organic fertilizers. Without these resources, women are unable to access business loans and other financial or material inputs.
Multiple studies have shown that when women have an income and control over it, entire communities stand to benefit, as women invest 90 percent of their income back into their families. This can lead to better education, nutrition, and health care—impacts that carry across communities and generations. Through this project, the Rainforest Alliance is partnering with nine local and regional organizations throughout Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras to address these systemic inequalities and help women thrive economically.
Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras
2020 – 2025
This project targets some of the most at-risk, marginalized women in communities across Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, specifically those belonging to the following ethnic groups:
- the Tzotzil, Tzeltal, and Chinantecas Indigenous peoples in Mexico
- the Mam, Q’eqchi’, and Poqomchi’, Indigenous peoples in Guatemala
- Afrodescendant women in cocoa-producing landscapes in Honduras
Target populations include women who suffer from or are at risk of forms of violence, trafficking, and forced labor. Additionally, these women are likely to suffer other forms of marginalization and exclusion, including being single mothers, living in communities with high rates of migration, and more.
Project objectives: targeted training and seed investment to help women prosper and succeed
The project works with both female and male farmers and entrepreneurs to challenge existing norms and biases. The main objective is to make economic growth opportunities safe and accessible to women through training, technical assistance, and enterprise development.
Project activities will work to achieve three main outcomes:
- Women prospering in the workforce
We are implementing a comprehensive capacity building program that will train individuals in the target communities on key topics such as business development, leadership and association, and violence prevention and human rights, among others. The goal is to help individuals find jobs with opportunities for advancement in local supply chains.
- Women succeeding as entrepreneurs
The project pairs enterprise development and business skills training with access to tailored finance mechanisms to help women start or strengthen natural resource-based micro and small enterprises, such as producing and selling homemade chocolate or selling eggs from local hens. A Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund has also been established to provide seed funding to women-owned or led businesses.
- Women enabled in the economy
The project will set up Women’s Leadership Alliances. These will serve as supportive networks for women in their landscapes and link with cooperatives, business associations, entrepreneurial support groups, and women’s groups. This will provide women with avenues to learn, network, and promote a common vision for asserting themselves within local business sectors, as well as in social and political spheres.
Desired impacts: thriving local businesses and communities
By the end of the program:
- The project will have trained more than 3,700 women, enabling them to progressively enter the workforce and increase their incomes by obtaining, retaining, and being promoted in higher paying jobs at later stages of the supply chain.
- At least US $1,000,000 in seed capital financing will have been distributed to women, helping them execute their business plans and meet their business goals.
- Women will have established at least 30 new business agreements with national, regional, and international buyers.
The funder for this project—full name “Women’s Economic Empowerment in Mesoamerica Initiative” (WEE)—is:
- Asociación de Comunidades Forestales de Petén
- Asociación de Organizaciones de los Cuchumatanes
- Federación de Cooperativas de las Verapaces
- Red de Mujeres Cacaoteras y Chocolateras de Honduras
- Alianza de Mujeres en Café Honduras
- Cecropia Soluciones Locales a Retos Globales
Rainforest Alliance contact
Martha María Rios, WEE chief of party