Visionary women from the highland Piuras
Pueblo Nuevo de Hualambi, Piura, Peru
Ofelia Cortez lives with her husband and son in the small village of Pueblo Nuevo de Hualambi, four hours from Piura, the department capital. It is quite unusual in this area for a family to be so small, but there is a reason for everything. Ofelia lost her daughter while she was still very small. She has a huge pain in her heart. But she never gives up in the face of adversity and clings to the countryside, to her small farm, to peaceful afternoons and her multiple activities so as to move forward in life.
Ofelia is a leader and acts as head of the granulated panela processing module. The grassroots organization to which she belongs is known as “Cruz Misionera” (missionary cross) that has 19 members, of whom 18 are men. In this part of the world male chauvinism still exists, but Ofelia is a woman who benefits from the necessary recognition and has the leadership skills to ensure work objectives are met. “For an organization to be successful, internal norms as well as certification and production requirements have to be met,” she says. She is cheerful and dynamic, strong and a visionary. “When we go to meetings, Ofelia brings the group to order and drives her fellow members to perform their functions so as to improve their quality of life”, indicated one of her female colleagues from CEPICAFÉ. She has contributed to improving its organization in many ways.
Her many activities also include presidency of the parents’ association of the secondary school where her youngest son studies.
Doña Ofelia likes to carry out every responsibility and role to the best of her ability, so she is very demanding of herself. On some occasions her husband has been jealous and did not understand her work as leader of the organization and within the community, but has had no problem in learning to respect her activities.
A day in the life of Ofelia involves getting up very early, preparing breakfast for her family, helping her husband on the farm with the coffee and sugarcane production, and feeding the chickens. Then she moves on to processing the sugarcane, sieving the whole raw sugar and complying with all technical specifications required for quality products. Once ready, the sugar is taken to Cooperative’s warehouse where it is packaged and exported to France and Italy.
Ofelia is part of the promoter training team that has allowed her to become qualified in basic accounting, organization, teamwork and in ensuring product quality. “The organization provides the foundation for getting ahead and improving my life, selling coffee and panela, cultivating my plantains, my peas and my corn”, she said.
Her farm, her house and her village are peaceful places. When she goes into town to check on the quality of her coffee or to visit her family, she likes to return home as soon as possible. A long time ago, when she was young, she studied nursing in town. But one day returned to her village on a visit, fell in love with her future husband, and decided to stay and support his family. Her greatest dream is to have another child and to be the best mother possible.
Thanks to her effort, the Cruz Misionera organization won the best float in the 4th Granulated Panela Festival in 2011 that is held every year in the region with the highest panela production.
In these mountains of Piura, Ofelia is an example of a woman of character who drives change. With pride, Ofelia Cortés figures as one of the images on CEPICAFÉ’s granulated panela packaging.