We live in an unequal world, and women pay a higher price for it. This is one of my few convictions. Among the many women who suffer such inequality, many of them are in the North and Northeast Brazil and are known as babassu coconut breakers.
Babassu is a fruit of the Babassu Palm. Women use babassu from different manners. They use the wood in the construction of their houses, leaves are used in roofs, walls and in the manufacture of doors and windows due to its resistance to rain. Every day, rural households use babassu milk and oil. They also have charcoal from the nut. The straw is widely used in the manufacture of handicrafts. The stems of the leaves are used for fencings and for storage of products. The main products commercialized and consumed are coal, oil, almond and coconut soap.
The same region in which these women live - and where babassu forests “babaçuais” are located - is marked by a historical land concentration. This means that in many regions, the large babaçuais are located on private properties. However, even being a resources with high potential, in most cases, land owners don’t use the babassu. The coconut grows, collapses and there stays.
So, since this wealth is not used by the landowner, women seek free access to these trees. Because, is using this coconut that they take their main livelihood. It’s very common to hear from these women that
It was by breaking coconut that I created my children.
Unfortunately, this struggle for free access to the babassu is not easy. This traditional profession is not recognized by landowners and politicians (who in many instances are the same people). Consequently, they are not recognized and valued by public policies. There are cases, for example, where the coconut breakers are required to pay 50% of total profit to the landowner. If you do not pay the amount, they can be accused of theft of babassu. They often are prohibited from moving forward in the properties, suffer abuse and see the coconuts collected burnt by employees of the farmers.
Currently only 17 municipalities have laws that guarantee these women have free access to farms. According to Carol, MIQCB - Interstate Movement of Babassu Coconut Breakers - advisor "We have a state law in the state of Tocantins allowing free access to the babassu coconut breakers that prohibits the burning of whole coconut throughout the state. The more laws passed, more breakers will have instruments to ensure free and decent access to babaçuais. "
Thus, a great demand from the coconut breakers organized movement is to strengthen the discussion of preservation and free access to the babassu, guaranteeing the right to enter in the extractive properties and collect the coconut for their livelihood. Currently, MIQCB is acting in four Brazilian states: Maranhao, Piaui, Tocantins and Pará and has 38 women’s productive groups, producing, oil, mesocarp, soaps, all byproducts of babassu. Access to babaçuais guarantees the existence and consolidation of this work performed by babassu coconut breakers.
Besides being women, these breakers challenge the historical Brazilian land structure and are great guardians of these babassu forests. In partnership with ActionAid, local organizations such as MIQCB, Assema and CMTR act along with those women fighting for their rights to the free access to the babassu! While celebrating this 8th march I hope women and men will remind so many women’s rights are not yet guaranteed. To have a world without poverty will be only possible when we get there!