Life for women in rural Peru can be hard. Over half of all women in Peru live in poverty and more than two-thirds have suffered physical or sexual violence inflicted by their partner. 2 in 5 rural women are illiterate – three times the rate amongst men – machismo is rife and opportunities for women are few, meaning that most marry young and have an average of seven children.

The Frontera San Ignacio coffee co-operative from Peru ran a project to empower women with the skills and knowledge they need to improve their lives. With funding and support from CPF’s Producer Partnership Programme, a group of 44 women took part in the project, including 46-year old Francisca from Calabazo in the Cajamarca region of Northern Peru.

Francisca, along with the other women, attended a series of informative talks on areas ranging from health and hygiene to self esteem, women’s rights and even the basics of using a computer.

Like most of the other women, Francisca had never used a computer before. “I didn’t know anything about the internet beforehand, in our day we didn’t use it. Now, with practice I would feel more confident to use it.”

Personal defence and self esteem was another area covered by the project. “They taught us to value ourselves as women, that we also have rights and powers.” The women held monthly meetings to discuss what they had learned and share ideas, which for Fransisca was one of the most valuable aspects of the project. “One person on their own can doubt themself, in a group it’s better,” she says “you feel like your worries and problems have been lifted. On the days of the meetings I felt better.”

Basic hygiene techniques, such as hand washing, were taught and the women also received ‘clean-burning cookstoves’ – a modern, improved stove design which uses half as much firewood than the current method of cooking over an open fire. The improved stove model has a chimney, so smoke is taken out of the kitchen rather than being breathed in by the family, and using this type of cookstove dramatically reduces rates of respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, especially in children.

Teofila is one of the women who received a stove though this project. “I had always dreamed of a cooker like this but never thought I would be able to afford it” she says. As part of the project, the families who received the stoves paid half and the other half was paid by the project funds, provided by CPF and the co-operative. “Now I am proud of my kitchen.”