“Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.” – UNWOMEN.ORG
Women represent a little under 40% of the membership of The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. Though they may not be seen cutting cane in the field or driving tractors or trucks, they do constitute an integral part of our sugar cane farming business and
communities. On behalf of the household, generally the men are the ones directly attending the cane fields while the women assist with the administrative aspects of the cane business such as record keeping, bank statement reconciliations, workers payroll, invoice payments etc., in addition to ensuring meals are ready for the family and ensuring children go to school.
Based on findings from our Youth Empowerment surveys, it has been noted that many households are increasingly single-mother headed households; some cared by the grandparents with the mother having to be the main source of income. It has been noted that many have to rely on doing small food and craft sales to obtain an income to support their families and more so afford for their children to remain in school.
In this regard, in November 2016, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association members approved an initial budget from their Fairtrade Premium funds for an income generation program geared toward women empowerment primarily its women membership which may find themselves in situations as single-mother income earners, where the production of sugar cane earnings may not suffice to sustain their households and education for their children.
The Alternative Income Generation – Women Empowerment program is geared to provide women with an avenue for a source of income; whereby they can earn some income to increase the chances that the children in the household remain in school while still being at home to care for their children and not having to leave their home to earn the additional income. In many households the older siblings are deprived from school to allow the younger ones a chance to attend school; or situations where in order to allow one sibling, generally the eldest, to further his or her education for higher learning - whether it be secondary or tertiary level, the younger siblings are deprived from school.
Women farmers fulfilling the required criteria were awarded with a package valued at $1,200 to help them boost their production of their existing income generation activities and or according to identified skill sets. It is estimated that this program will impact more than 50 households within the first year, by directly improving the standard of living for the women participating under the program as well as their children and surrounding community members. Some of the participating women have increased their sales of food or baked goods and others their production of garments, sewing services, production of coconut oil and milk, ground pepper, vegetables to name a few.
This new fiscal year, members further approved additional Fairtrade Premium funds to expand the program and integrate not only women farmers but also other women in the community. The intent is to continue investing in women empowerment projects and programs to enhance the livelihood of women and children in BSCFA sugar cane farming communities.