Fatima Ismael Espinoza from Nicaragua is a manager from a union with 68 cooperatives. It was not easy for her to become the manager. Read her story below.
Fátima Ismael Espinoza, 56 years
Unión de Cooperativas Agropecuarias y Servicios SOPPEXCCA R.L.
“I graduated as an agronomist and for 34 years I worked for the cooperative sector in my country. In the years of the revolution I worked for the Ministry of Agricultural Development. Since 1999 I began my work in the Union SOPPEXCCA RL, where I am a manager. I advise the board of directors, the planning, the evaluation and monitoring processes as well as the promotion and marketing of coffee to international markets. Also I take care of the management of economic resources.
Eighteen years ago, we started with 68 associates. In 2004 we formed a Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, which implies the cooperative model that guarantees the equity and ownership of assets and heritage for families. I got inspired to work and fight for the union so that it would become an organisation that will represent the interest of small coffee producers, as for the small producers the marginalisation of access to credit and marketing is a daily challenge.
Joining the organisation was not easy for me as a woman. Many distrusted the abilities of us women. Before I became a manager, two other women were trying to lead but they retired. Still, they supported me to take the lead. Whenever we have support, we can achieve it. We started to work on sensitizing the gender perspective in the organisation and raised awareness for the integration of women in the cooperative life in an active way: with ownership on land and resources, but also at positions level in the Councils of Administration, Monitoring Board and General Assembly. Key to this, was that men gave support in defining the gender policy and strategy in the organisation.
Still, being a woman with a leadership position is hard. We have to endure smear campaigns, offenses and threats among many other things. The charge for a woman represents more risks, because in a sexist world, many offenses against a woman are made, but would not dare against a man. We are aware of this, and we live with these human failures.”
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