From where I stand: “When I’m stung, I am reminded of how strong I already am”
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 p.m., 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 p.m. 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.”
Oralia Ruano Lima, 29, is the treasurer of a women-led association, Asociación Comunitaria Integral Productiva in the village of Urlanta, in the south-eastern region of Guatemala, about a 30-minute drive from Jalapa, the nearest city. She is also the founding member of the Guatemalan organization, “Women to Generate Rural Success” (MUGER). The Association received funding to start a bee-keeping enterprise through the Broadening Economic Opportunities for Rural Women Entrepreneurs in Latin America Region Programme (BEO) programme by UN Women and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The programme also trained the Association members in human rights, business management, sales and distribution. Ms. Lima’s daily work reflects Sustainable Development Goal 8, which promotes productive employment and decent work for all, as well as decent job creation and entrepreneurship. The project has also resulted in more women participating in village meetings and claiming equal rights, resonating with SDG 5, which promotes women’s leadership and participation at all levels.
Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.