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Cese supports initiatives that strengthen the productivity of quilombola women in Maranhão

The Women Guardians of the Seeds Collective strengthens its support network and develops the commercialization of quilombola women’s products

Black and quilombola women rely on support to commercialize babassu coconut oil and its derivatives, overcoming the socio-economic challenges caused by the pandemic. This is the assertion of the Women Guardians of the Seeds Collective, which promotes collaboration between support networks, the propagation of ancestral knowledge and agro-ecological practices in Maranhão.  The initiative is being supported by the Small Projects Programme of the Ecumenical Coordination of Services (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE).

The project aims to provide better structural conditions for the collective production and commercialization of babassu coconut oil. The income generated by sales will mitigate the difficulties exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and improve production.  The Women Guardians of the Seeds Collective would like to extend the participation of women from the territories and set up a support network to help confront violence, in collaboration with movements and organizations.

According to Rosilene Cruz, Project Coordinator, the context of quilombola women involves a long history of overcoming obstacles.  “It’s a history of struggle, resistance, organization, of breaking down barriers in search of alternatives and in defence of a free territory for our good living,” declared Rosilene, who holds meetings to organize and improve production and runs thematic training meetings.

Training activities address themes such as Confronting domestic violence during the pandemic; Recovering and sharing ancestral knowledge and practices; Challenges to racial equity; and Learning more about the full use of the babassu and using natural pesticides, as well as workshops on Natural Medicine and Natural Gynaecology.  Training activities began in May this year and will conclude in August.

Participating women come from the communities of Pontes, Sítio Raízes and Bica, all of which are quilombola territories in Maranhão.  Fifteen women are taking part in the training and collaborating to organize and strengthen the collective, through roundtable conversations, group work and workshops.  For Rosilene Cruz, the female beneficiaries view the project as an arena for “autonomy, empowerment, independence, quality of life and the attainment of rights”.

Women Guardians of the Seeds – The current project is the collective’s first activity to be supported by CESE, which provides the conditions necessary to run the training, improve production and commercialize products.  “CESE’s support provided the incentive for more women to join us, to further strengthen our struggle. It has also enabled us to find out about other alternatives and other territories and their experiences – which we call knowledge exchange”, Rosilene confirmed.

Created in 2017, the “Women Guardians of the Seeds” Collective was born out of an exchange called the “Seeds of Passion Exchange” which brought together women from three quilombola communities in Maranhão. Since then, the group has run activities aimed at safeguarding seeds from the territory, organized workshops on how to make Abayomi dolls, and worked in the extraction of the babassu coconut and its derivatives.  The current project will help to structure the support unit where the Women Guardians of the Seeds Collective operates.