30-year-old Sandra Xiquín is from Santiago Sacatepéquez in Guatemala. She grew up in poverty and only attended school for a few years before she had to start working as a day labourer. After marrying, Sandra moved in with her in-laws, living in a cramped room. Her in-laws weren’t happy with her as they’d hoped their son would marry an educated woman.
Sandra’s chance to prove herself came when her mother gave them a small plot of land. Sandra was sure they would be able to make it work, but her husband doubted her. She went to the bank for a loan, but they refused, because she was a farmer and a woman at that.
Sandra then joined the local farmer’s Cooperative and they gave her the starting capital she so desperately needed. Through the Cooperative she was also able to continue her basic studies. It was at this point that Sandra’s perseverance began to pay off and her enterprise began.
CARE, funded by H&M Foundation, has worked closely with the farmer’s Cooperative since 2015, offering business training support and technical assistance to its members. In addition, CARE has provided seed capital to the Cooperative for its packaging plant.
Together with her husband, Sandra rented additional land to generate more produce and with their earnings bought more land. The business expanded from a few square metres of land to nine acres. Sandra’s successful farming export business is now thriving and she produces a wide variety of vegetables including carrots, green beans and Creole peas. Through the Cooperative she sells in a fixed market with safe prices and secure payments.
Thanks to the success of her business, Sandra can provide for her children and she has built her own house. She also helps other women, providing jobs for them to work the land. Sandra has been voted President of the Cooperative with 450 female farmer members, including three of her sisters. Her day includes attending to Presidential duties, supervising the workers, but best of all she still loves to work the land.
Despite his early doubts, Sandra’s husband now recognises her work and supports her one hundred per cent. And Sandra has finally made her father’s dream come true, but with a difference. It wasn’t a son who took over the land. It was Sandra, his daughter, a woman.
“I don’t like to be underestimated. You imagine building your own house, working your own land but where do you start when banks won’t give you a loan because you’re a female farmer? A woman is not credit worthy, that’s what they said. They should all see me now. Today I have my own farm land and I am the president of our cooperative with 450 female members. Who said women are weak?”