Oralia Ruano Lima was among the first women in her indigenous community to join an all-female entrepreneurship project as a beekeeper. Today the women beekeepers of Urlanta, a village in the south-eastern region of Guatemala, are bringing in sustainable jobs and income to their rural communities, and changing mindsets and attitudes towards women.
"My day starts before the sun is even up, when I take a long sip of black coffee and get ready for the first shift—teaching grades one through three at our local school. The second shift begins after 3 pm, as I walk through the forest, following the growing buzz of the bees. If three years ago you had told me that I would be so happy teaching children in the morning and taking care of bugs in the afternoon, I wouldn’t have believed you!
Back in 2014, my village community organized its first all-female entrepreneurship initiative. I joined without any hesitation—I wanted my own income.
In total, 29 women signed up, aged 18 to 85 years—with a wide array of knowledge, skills and experiences. We decided to try bee-keeping, since we already produced flowers that the bees could pollinate and some members had experience in apiculture.
We started with 42 bee hives. At first, we had a few setbacks—for example, we didn’t make enough profits and some women left. But slowly we got better at beekeeping by constantly training new members and improving our technique. Today, almost a year later, we have 53 hives that produce about 150 bottles of honey in peak season. We even offer advice to similar projects, so that they too may learn from our experience.
The best part of this initiative has been the change of attitudes within the community about what is expected of women in Urlanta. Women were expected to have babies and stay home, while the men earned and made all the decisions. Not anymore. Now women have a voice in the village meetings, since they are bringing income, jobs and media attention!
Usually it’s 4 pm when I reach the hives. Surrounded by the bees, I think about all that we can still accomplish. When I’m stung, I am reminded of how strong I already am.”
Source and copyright: UN WOMEN