Roxana Añez lives with her husband and nine children in an indigenous community on the shores of the river Beni in the Bolivian Amazon.
Since sending girls to school was not considered important Roxana barely learned to read or write. She felt invisible.
‘I was clever and brave. I had lots of ideas in my head but when I wanted to participate in community meetings nobody ever listened to me, or to any of the women.’
With the support of Christian Aid, Roxana now represents the women at her community council and she has helped to introduce solar ovens. The ovens signal huge changes in how the community manage their time and their environment. No longer stuck in the kitchen, the women are speaking up.
Maggie Birley is an accidental sawmiller.
She and husband Jim worked in El Salvador in 1992, during the peace process at the end of the civil war. Alongside returning refugees they set up community-based social enterprises to take over sugar-cane plantations. Previously, sugar-cane had been an unreliable industry which offered only badly-paid seasonal employment.
But, after the war, local people began planting and growing trees to serve the community. Maggie was particularly inspired by women community organisers who set up local shops geared to people’s needs. Those run by men sold mostly alcohol and tobacco.
Since their return to Scotland 20 years ago, Maggie and Jim have been raising awareness about sustainable planting and community organising through their social enterprise, Scottish Wood.
They bought a piece of land on a former mine-owner’s estate surrounded by ancient woodlands which were very polluted. The trees were dying and they used those which they couldn’t sell to floor their newly-built house.
The sawmill provides timber for boards and kilning from primary sawing, and for craft use from secondary sawing. Their on-site showroom means that people can visit, see the mill at work, and that good wood is not just a possibility for rich people.