The International Day of the Girl Child is an opportunity to celebrate gender equality and the efforts to ensure equal opportunities for all young people. The theme for 2015 is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”
The international Fairtrade system works closely with producer organizations youth to ensure greater opportunities for young girls and boys and to eliminate and prevent unacceptable forms of child labor.
We recently spoke with Teresa Pereira (27, featured right), who works with Manduvira Ltda., a Fairtrade cooperative in Paraguay. She is the daughter of a sugar farmer, and a farmer herself.
Interview with Teresa Pereira
How long have you been working for Manduvira?
I’m currently the Executive Secretary of the organization. I’ve been very fortunate to be part of the Manduvira family for nine years.
What was it like growing up on a sugar farm?
I’m one of four children. When I was a young girl, I would go out to work on the farm with my father after school. I always liked the countryside, watering the plants in the garden, working with the animals (milking the cows to sell milk). Today I go to my own cane farm that my father manages and there we also have a small garden and a few farm animals.
What led you to choose the career that you have now?
After finishing secondary school, my objective was to study something that was marketable, that’s why I opted to pursue a Trade & Marketing Engineer degree. A few months after I began my studies, I started working for Manduvira.
What was it like leaving home to attend school in Asuncion? Did you always want to return home?
In reality, the studies were only two times a week – in the evening every Friday and the whole day on Saturday for five years. In the final year, we would have class three times a week. So I always lived in Arroyos and then after work I would go to class.
Are there more opportunities for young people in your community? Has that changed since you were younger?
I think there are more opportunities for young people today. Here it has changed favorably thanks to the sugar industry and the new mill at Manduvira, which created jobs for more than 200 people and has had a large social and economic impact in the community of Arroyos y Esteros.
What are some of the other projects that Manduvira offers in the community?
We are providing English language courses for youth and adults, cultural festivals at local schools with song and dance from the region, medical services, dental and eyesight services in various communities. We’re also managing a campaign to make people conscious of the importance of caring for the environment and keeping the community clean.
What advice do you have for other young girls who are trying to decide what they want to do in life?
My advice is that they should fight for their rights and their values, that all dreams are possible if you apply dedicated effort and perseverance. Young people are not only the future, but the present. Your studies are a tool that can serve to support your life, your country and your world.
Your vision is the most valuable capital you have, it’s just a question of nurturing it while always keeping in mind the social, and environmental impacts and on the economic side, always trying to help people who are less fortunate.
Changing the world depends on every single one of us.
Cooperativa Manduvira is an organic sugar cooperative with over 930 farmer members. In 2013, Manduvira opened the world’s first producer-owned organic sugar mill. The mill has dramatically reduced the time and cost that farmers need to deliver their cane to be processed. And Manduvira now receives the cane sooner after harvest, which improves the quality of the final product.
The mill currently operates at 60-70% capacity and Manduvira estimates that they will process 11,000 – 13,200 tons of organic sugar cane in 2015.
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