2016 Global Gender Summit: Women's Economic Empowerment

Written by: Carmina Serrano Marquez

Sandra presented a powerful testimony of the history
and success of the cooperative.
Credit: C. Serrano Marquez
"The women's cooperative started because we wanted to work together in the market.  People in the market discriminated us, because we were women and most people in the market were men. They told us that women only worked well in cleaning the house and raising the kids, not in the field or fishing. So we fought those stereotypes and we organized our own cooperative".

These were the words, translated in English, of Ms. Sandra Ciquin Chriroy, President of the Cooperative Mujeres Cuatro Pinos during her presentation at the 2016 Global Gender Summit held at the Inter-American Development Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC on 7-8 June. I was there and fortunate to listen to  the powerful testimonies of Sandra and all the other women who shared their success stories.

Cuatro Pinos is a cooperative of indigenous women producers and their families in the central highlands of Guatemala. The cooperative focuses on women’s empowerment, and through an IFAD grant the cooperative established a women’s wing, Cooperativa Mujeres Cuatro Pinos in 2010.

Sandra participated in the panel discussion “Women’s Entrepreneurship: Access to Markets and Trade”, and she brought a unique perspective. Her presentation focused on the practical approaches to problems faced by women entrepreneurs in accessing markets and the concrete outcomes which had come as a result of the work of the cooperative and IFAD’s support. This included the certification the cooperative had obtained with the GLOBAL GAP to export non-traditional vegetables  to the United States and Europe.

"Before being in a cooperative, we did not have a voice. We did not have transport, and we would sometimes give away our products very cheaply , almost free, because we did not have enough money to produce more, and to feed our families."

From L-R: Attiya, Nawazish Ali, Sandra Ciquin Chriroy,
Yokasta Guzman and Henriette Kolb. 

Sandra proudly shared her own story. She used to live in very poor conditions - living with her in-laws and struggling to provide for her family’s needs and the education of her children. Since becoming a member of the cooperative eight years ago, she has seen many improvements in the quality of her life and of her family. She now owns one hectare of land, which she uses for vegetable production; she has a house of her own, she has also provided a house for her mother and her children attend school regularly.

"Climate change has affected our products. We have been able to produce with technology, but to have technology, we need more money to sustain our products and process them. We are unable to access that because of poverty."

Sandra’s presentation was highly commended as she inspired everyone with the stories she shared. She acknowledged IFAD multiple times during her presentation and also expressed her personal thanks to IFAD's previous and current Director of Latin America and the Caribbean, Josefina Stubbs and Joaquin Lozano, for their support to Cuatro Pinos and to her own personal success.

At one point during the summit, I saw Sandra staring over the beautiful atrium at the venue. I asked her if she’s alright. She looked at me, and said she was in disbelief of how fast her journey to success has been. She said that she wouldn’t be where she is now without the support of IFAD. I must admit, her emotions and words brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of how proud I am to be an empowered woman, and to be part of the IFAD family who makes a difference to the lives of people like Sandra and the women at her cooperative. 

Graphic recording of Sandra’s presentation created by Crowley & Co.

The 2016 Global Gender Summit was attended by over a  hundred of leaders from governments, private sector, civil society and multilateral development banks.  Speakers included high-level officials such as Mr. Luis Alberto Moreno, President of Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Mr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group and Her Excellency Ms. Margarita Cerdeño, Vice President of the Dominican Republic.  

The summit was an opportunity for all attendees to share new developments, lessons learned and evidence-based approaches for advancing women’s economic empowerment globally. The discussions highlighted the importance of connecting economy to women’s empowerment with a common goal, that is to present a case that the success of full implementation of  women’s empowerment would need efforts from all partners: governments, multilateral development banks, private sector, etc.