A Woman of Character

“I was born in the region of Lagoa dos Santos and moved while still young to Cachoeira do Peixe, in the Ceará countryside. As a girl, we were always moving, we always lived on someone’s land. We went through hard times, and I learned from that. A neighbor taught me to read and write – I didn’t go to school until I was 14. I got married at the age of 17 and had my first two sons (Erislângio, 21, and Eduardo, 18), but I separated later on. 

 

I never imagined that a princess would wear trainers I helped make. Organic farming is definitely a way to 
empower women

-  39-year-old farmer Rita Ambrósio de Melo, 39 year old farmer from Brazil. 

I started planting crops to earn money. I left each day at 4am, walked 15 kilometers to reach the plantation and returned at 5pm. When I was 24, I helped create the Nossa Senhora das Graças Association. We were able to buy land and bolster farming in the region. I was the only woman brave enough to join the men. At the time, I thought, ‘This will be the ticket for my life and for the future of my children.’ After that, I completed my studies and built my house. I’m a fighter. 

Two years ago, through the NGO Esplar, in partnership with C&A Foundation, the ‘Moco Cotton Organic Farming Consortiums’ project reached our community. We practice organic farming, which uses the soil without damaging the environment, in a pesticide-free process. All the cotton produced is sold by the family farming associations to the Justa Trama Cooperative, in Rio Grande do Sul, and to Veja Fair Trade, a French fair-trade company that arrived in Brazil as Vert and produces trainers. I never imagined that a princess would wear trainers I helped make. (Duchess Meghan Markle recently wore one of the brand’s models.) 

Participating in the project gave us wings. The women became more united, the bond of friendship strengthened. Our self-esteem, knowledge and experience have grown. The project has broadened our vision. There are 15 women in the group and they have all become more independent. They no longer wait for their husbands to tell them what to plant. We have greater goals, we know where we want to go and how to make our way. We support each other in making our dreams come true. 

Organic farming is definitely a way to empower women. Today we have more opportunities in this world of men. We would never be where we are now without that change in the relationship between men and women. I feel I participate more actively, and I am changing the place where I live. 

With the arrival of this project, I have had more opportunities and have changed my life. I believe that is true of all women and of the future generations as well. We are strong now, but we can grow even stronger. I envision a better future not only for myself, but also for my daughters, my sons (we also have Jefferson, 15; Camily Vitória, 12 years old and João Pedro, 5), and the entire community. 

I love living in the countryside. I think it offers much more than the city. My children have livestock to watch, the fields to visit. In the city, my friends’ children only spend time with their phones. At night, I teach math and Portuguese to young people and adults. My dream for the future is to go to college, and I know that one day I will do that.” 

 

This story was orginally published as part of a profile series in Marie Claire Brazil , in partnership with C&A Foundation. To see the original version click here

 


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Ceará, Brazil