“In my home, my father and my mother always valued my sister and me less than my brothers,” says Juana Hu Mateo, a 41-year-old from Guatemala’s indigenous Maya Ixil community. Despite her parents’ lack of support and community norms against women’s participation outside the home, Juana persevered to study, eventually finding work as a seasonal coffee sorter at Asociación Chajulense, a coffee cooperative and Root Capital client in the western highlands of Guatemala.
In 2005 Asociación Chajulense obtained a coffee sorting machine and no longer needed to employ Juana and 500 other women employees during the harvest. In response, the women established their own sister organization called Asociación Chajulense de Mujeres “Unidas por La Vida” (ACMUV), commercializing traditional weavings and other knit handcrafts and providing women entrepreneurs with micro-credit for weaving, agriculture and other businesses.
The women of ACMUV knew that its male-led coffee cooperative counterpart was receiving financial management training from Root Capital, so they approached us to see if they could participate as well. When our team saw the potential for impact, we excitedly agreed. Together, Root Capital and the women of ACMUV designed a tailored training program focused on improving the women’s business acumen, specifically their understanding of cost drivers and their ability to forecast.
Root Capital optimized training times around the women’s schedules to ensure that the women could participate, organizing trainings in the mornings and afternoons, with a several-hour break in the middle of the day to allow women to cook and serve lunch for their families (a preference that the women expressed). In many of the trainings, the ACMUV women brought their young children, with Root Capital covering the associated childcare costs.
In 2014, ACMUV broke even for the first time. Juana, now the ACMUV general coordinator, told us that it was an especially proud moment, as the group, first founded with subsidy, began to envision a financially sustainable future. She explained that by applying the knowledge gleaned from Root Capital’s training to accomplish this milestone, “we saw that we can achieve this as women – this, and much more.”
So what did Juana and the other ACMUV members do after celebrating a successful 2014? They set more ambitious targets for next year.
Root Capital invests in women by investing in agricultural businesses. We finance and build the managerial capacity of rural enterprises, strengthening the agricultural businesses that unlock market opportunities for women to participate as farmers, agricultural workers, and leaders. In 2012, Root Capital formally launched our Women in Agriculture Initiative (WAI) to study the roles played by women across our value chains, the barriers that women face to fully participating and benefiting from their participation, and to identify and seize opportunities to deepen our impact and our clients’ impacts on women.