My Name is Mercedes
I am 20 years old and I live with my parents and siblings in a small town outside of Quito, Equador. My father is a street vendor who sells a variety of things to tourists, including jewelry and clothing. I help my father, and sometimes I go off on my own to sell in another town. When lots of tourists come, we make good money, but when tourism is low, life is very difficult.
Last night I celebrated Women’s History Month by attending an Oxfam banquet in St. Paul. Speakers included Nancy Delaney, Oxfam America; Senator Sandy Pappas; Congresswoman Betty McCollum; and Jacqueline Morret, Farmer and President of the Women’s Association of Pouille, Haiti.
If you have never been to a hunger banquet, it is a very moving experience. When we arrived we each received a sheet with our identity for the evening – mine is at the start of this post. 15% were high income and received a full meal served at tables including salad, beverage and main course. A few more were in the middle income group, including me. We sat on chairs and received rice and beans. The majority were low income and sat on the floor – they received rice and water. Men were served first because in many countries women and children are served last. One man pointed out that the low income people received clean water and in the real world most people do not have access to clean drinking water.
Women do most of the farming in the world but are more likely to face hunger than men and have fewer opportunities to earn a decent living. According to Oxfam, if we invest in women farmers we help to ensure they have equal access to resources they need:
- Land. Women often farm on small plots, on marginal land or poor soil. They rarely own the land they work, which prevents them from accessing credit or gaining long-term security.
- Water. Many rural communities face more-frequent droughts due to climate change, while infrastructure development projects, such as dams and mines, divert water from irrigation.
- Economic Opportunites: All farmers should have the chance to earn a fair price for their crops. But women farmers have fewer opportunities to reach new markets or expand their businesses. Of all credit offered in developing countries, only 10 percent is available to women.
- Training and Education. As the climate shifts, farmers will need to adapt their methods, using new techniques like crop rotation and more-efficient water management. Women farmers need access to information, education, and training to help them learn these new methods and to harness the power of their knowledge and ideas.