The Women of Chajul

The second Coffee Kids project we visited was in Chajul, located in the Ixil triangle. To get there, we drove five hours from Antigua till the pavement ended and another two hours on dirt roads. Chajul is still battered from the thirty-year civil war which devastated its indigenous community. Non-profit organizations have responded by contributing funds and resources over the years, but few visit to see how money is being used for progress. It’s visits such as these, we were told at a community meeting, that encourage and motivate progress.

Chajulene speak Ixil, an indigenous Mayan language. All the women wear a traditional cranberry-colored skirt signifying the Chajul region. Women here are given more opportunities to exercise autonomy and make decisions in at home or in the workplace than their counterparts I saw closer to Guatemala City. Because the coffee coop community is tight knit, it thrives on interdependence to succeed. As part of this workforce, women therefore have greater respect and say. They do not enjoy gender quality, however. After the last coffee crisis, it was women employees who were the first to be let go. As part of its efforts to address these gender inequities, the Coffee Kids program here offers micro credits to women and their families to provide them with loans to start business which so they don’t have to be reliant on coffee for their livelihoods. Loans are used to support local shops and textile manufacturing.

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