Supporting and believing in each other: How a women’s food cooperative in Guatemala brings people together to ensure income, nutrition and health

Women and girls in developing countries face much greater risk of harm from COVID-19. The pandemic is changing the way women earn money and access nutritious food for themselves and their families.

Gilda is the president of a women’s cooperative in Guatemala that employs local women to produce soya bean derivatives. The high protein products help combat malnutrition in their community. She shared with us how she is leading her community through this crisis, with support from CARE.

How has the virus affected you or your family’s life?

COVID-19 has affected us economically and emotionally. We haven’t been able to sell our products and our income has decreased. The worst case scenario is that we will have to shut down the business. Members of my family have been laid off or suspended from their work. If food starts to run out we don’t know how we will provide for our children.

What are your biggest worries?

If the number of infected people keeps rising, in some areas they don’t even have the basic services like water, which is a necessity for basic hygiene, that is a problem and a worry. The other worry is that health centres will collapse or that there could be high numbers of deaths. Another fear is that a lot of people will become depressed because of the desperation of not having a job or anything to eat, and still have to look after their families.

What do you think the impact will be on the local economy and the economy generally of Guatemala?

It is very difficult to say, and it is going to take time before we recover. Families in rural areas and women’s businesses will be affected in a big way because we don’t have a fixed income. Myself, for example, I am the head of my household—and there are many others like me—we have to work to look after our families. Also, the farmers are going to lose their harvests, prices are going to rise and families are going to have to ration their food. This will cause increased malnutrition and poverty, and even more so for women.

How has CARE been helping you and the cooperative?

CARE is an organization that has been helping us since before the crisis. Right now, they are there through phone calls and messages asking us how we are doing and that helps us emotionally. Alongside the advice they have given us, they have also previously given us items such as masks and gloves as good practice and we are still using them, but now in order to protect ourselves from COVID-19.

How do you think you might adapt?

We are looking at the possibilities of making a different type of product that the community needs right now. We are looking at ways to adapt until this crisis passes. Being part of this cooperative allows us to combine our strengths to find collective alternatives. Being able to communicate with each other cheers us up and makes us realize we are not alone. My advice to other small businesses around the world is: don’t get dismayed, we must keep standing. There will be a new way to continue on and find alternatives. As women we need to support each other and believe in ourselves.

CARE is ensuring women and girls have tools and support to survive this crisis and to help forge a more equal, more resilient world. Your donation today supports women like Gilda. Call to action