When Rosibel Ramos smiles, the wrinkles around the corners of her eyes deepen. Her jet black hair is pulled back at the nape of her neck, fully exposing a face and eyes that radiate warmth and confidence.
Rosibel was so excited to tell me her story. So happy to be heard. So proud to be seen. Because for many years, she was hidden.
“It scares me how I was before,” she said. “I used to be a woman who was voiceless and faceless.”
Now 54 years old, Rosibel has a life that she never imagined possible when she was younger. For more than 30 years, she has worked hard to gain what so many women in Nicaragua are denied: education, land, money, and freedom.
When I asked how old she was, Rosibel looked at me with a playful smile and said she was 20. She then explained that 20 years ago, she was given the chance to start a new life with the help of a local women’s organization called FEM (La Fundación entre Mujeres). Through FEM, Rosibel learned to read and write, and joined a cooperative of 250 female farmers called Las Diosas – The Goddesses.
Today, Rosibel is the president of Las Diosas; she owns a little house and a plot of land; and she is studying traditional medicine at university.
“Now I can say that I am an empowered woman,” Rosibel proclaimed with pride.
For the past year, Rosibel and her co-op have been working with Ronald Anzoleaga, a Cuso International volunteer. Ronald is an economist and professor who is helping the women in Las Diosas improve their business planning and marketing so they can earn higher profits from the hibiscus and coffee they cultivate.
At first, the women in Las Diosas were skeptical of being advised by a male volunteer. After all, how could Ronald fully understand their challenges without any first-hand experience? For many of the women, the co-op was the sole space in their lives where they didn’t have to answer to a man.
But Ronald was different – a gentle giant. For the first four months, he actively listened to the women and learned their practices. Once he gained their trust, he taught them how to account for all their costs so they could set a fair price and sell their products more effectively. Since working with Ronald, the co-op’s production has increased by 50 percent.
Skilled and sensitive volunteers like Ronald are proof that Cuso International’s partnerships can have a profound effect on reducing poverty and inequality. These partnerships are made possible by our donors, who understand that transferring knowledge and building skills can bring positive, lasting change.
Please consider donating today to help send more volunteers where they are needed most to make a real difference.