Extractive Workers Collective: Promoting Opportunities to Advance Women and Reject Invisibility

Women participate in activity during meeting
Event displays sociobiodiversity chains, explores trajectory and produces reports, bringing women’s efforts to the fore

May, 2023 - Day-to-day activities of women from traditional extractive communities in the Amazon include household chores, childcare and other domestic responsibilities. They often wake up before sunrise and go into the forest to harvest seeds or nuts, help to process açaí berries, and collect  natural raw materials  to manufacture biojewels. Unfortunately, their work is not always valued and recognized by their communities. 

The 2nd Meeting of Agroextractive Women took place in Macapá, state capital of Amapá, in the extreme north of Brazil. They explored opportunities to change this reality and lift women from their current state of invisibility.

“Women engage and play a key role in the entire sociobiodiversity production chain, but sadly they are still seen and treated as mere assistants. In fact, they do a lot more than just helping: they play a leading role in the whole process. And so do young people, they ought to be recognized for that,” summarizes Jaqueline Sanches, from the Cooperative of Agroextractive Producers of Bailique and Beira Amazonas (Amazonbai), one of the collectives contributing to the event. 

Waldiléia Rendeiro works as a Socioenvironmental Analyst and serves as the meeting Coordinator for the Brazilian International Education Institute (IEB). She explains several women's organizations have the potential to act in production and territorial development actions, but they still face challenges. “These include difficulties in accessing resources and finance, a lack of incentives to improve organizational and productive structures, and a state of invisibility. This is reflected in the lack of representation and access to public policies.”

Deurizete Cardoso is a representative of the Beira Amazonas Collective Kitchen – a group that collectively works on local food production. She demonstrated, through a very practical approach, how obstacles need to be overcome, including the challenges they face when trying to enter institutional markets, such as school meal programs. “We faced difficulties in benefiting from public policies. But when we engage in this process and start fighting not only for a single woman, but rather for all women, I think it becomes more viable.”

New Step - The event gathered around 40 representatives from 20 grassroots organizations in the states of Pará and Amapá. It marked the closure of the “Network Coordination” project, supported by the Forest, Community and Family Management Observatory; and the launch of “Sowing Sustainability”, an initiative coordinated by the IEB, with investment from the Partnership Platform for the Amazon (PPA) and the private sector, in addition to the institutional partnership with the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and Amazonbai.

The project seeks to strengthen community and collective enterprises led by agroextractive women through continued education programs focused on management systems for production processes, territorial governance, and entrepreneurship. Ten ventures will be selected to participate in continued training programs scheduled to start in June.

“When we think of production chain diversification, women stand out in sustainable practices, including for forest management, for the production of Brazil nuts, essential oils, and biojewels," says Maria Creuza Ribeiro, from the Por Ti Meu Deus community, in the Verde para Sempre Extractive Reserve. She is also a member of the Porto de Moz Association of Urban and Rural Women, in the state of Pará. 

They were able to reflect on different strategies for the production and commercialization of sociobiodiversity products, social and political organizing, and advancing the rights of girls and women in their reports. 

“We rescued a discussion from our first meeting, held in December, where we sought to identify and encourage cooperation among different groups. Building on that, we had deeper discussions on the initiatives’ challenges with regard to production, commercialization, and organizing, and we reviewed potential solutions. We collectively developed a minimum structure for our work, whose mission is initially focused on mobilizing, exchanging, and strengthening women's collectives,” summarizes Waldiléia.

In order to continue building pathways, participants created the Amazon Women’s Network, which includes online meetings to promote deeper reflections and strengthen governance mechanisms. 

“We are going to start a training program, investing in education and capacity-building so that we can build stronger organizations, with actors that have an active voice and are capable of making decisions,” says Jaqueline.

Watch the video about the meeting here: