Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: March 31st, 2023

Since its inception, our University has been known for remaining true to its values and creating opportunities for everyone regardless of ethnicity, beliefs, or gender. Although agronomy has long been seen as a career exclusively for men, at EARTH, we have endeavored to break paradigms and encourage women to reach their full potential in the agricultural sector. We also promote diversity and the empowerment of female staff and faculty to achieve their dreams and be bold in their lives.

On March 8, we celebrated International Women’s Day. Today we share the stories of three EARTH women who strive daily to create a better world and enjoy their freedom and individuality.

A woman who embraces freedom

Adriana Benavides, EARTH internship manager, has traveled the world, and most of the time, she has done it alone. Since childhood, she has wanted to see other places, soak up different cultures, and climb many mountains. She has succeeded, but first, she had to face challenges that still haunt many women: achieve a sense of freedom and break with stigmas that wouldn’t allow her to explore the world because, as she says, “There is a deep-rooted fear that women should not venture out on their own.” She shook off that fear and avoided the stares of others to dare to swim in open water, climb the highest peaks of Costa Rica, and travel to as many countries as possible.

“I feel that a challenge for us women is to belong, to be accepted. We have to break paradigms to see more women in all places. Sometimes I think it is tiring for us that even today, we still have to keep fighting to earn a place in certain fields. We are questioned about many things, such as how feminine we are and whether or not we want to be mothers or get married. And we have historically been pigeonholed into certain roles, such as caregivers. These are the challenges of everyday life, facing these constant questions, the fear of going out into the street, and the struggle for equality,” she says.

On a day-to-day basis, Adriana works with third-year students to establish a plan for their professional internships. She gets to meet young people from extremely diverse countries and backgrounds. “One of the things I like about EARTH and my work is having access to so many cultures and personal and social stories. That makes the path to awareness easier because we can listen to and learn from each other. Learning about other people’s lives has helped me be empowered, more tolerant, and grow as a professional and as a woman,” she adds.

Laughing, she says that in the future, she imagines herself as “a little old lady” who enters open water competitions, surprising people who applaud when she, with all her years, manages to reach the shore and cross the finish line.

A woman who embodies empathy

When it comes to empathy and kindness, sophomore Lluvia Azofeifa Casey (‘25, Costa Rica) stands out for her commitment to the EARTH community and, primarily, to the women around her. Last year, Lluvia started attending our University’s Women’s Circle, a safe space where students and some staff members share their stories and concerns and support each other to grow and improve. This year, Lluvia is one of the students leading this space organizing and inviting other girls to join to form even deeper bonds of sisterhood.

“At EARTH, I have been able to get close to other women, and I have learned about their experiences, which are different from mine. The most striking thing for me as a woman is that I think we all enter this University afraid because we are going to study a career that globally has been dominated by men and in which machismo is still very much alive. However, I have seen how gradually we all lose that fear as the University, and even our male colleagues, help us to empower ourselves and move forward,” she shares.

For Lluvia, Women’s Circles are vital at EARTH and everywhere because they let women open up about issues they need to discuss for personal development while being supported by other women who can empathize with their situations.

In the future, Lluvia sees herself working for the welfare of people who don’t have access to opportunities, small farmers without market recognition who are fighting for food security.

A woman who welcomes motherhood

It was 1990 when Yamileth Ávalos began working at EARTH. She was also starting as a new mother. Work and motherhood came simultaneously to change her life and show her that anything is possible when you want to do something and put your mind to it. Since she came to EARTH, Yamileth has worked for the Asociación Solidarista de la Finca Comercial de Banano (Solidarity Association of the Commercial Banana Farm).

“Before working at EARTH, I had a job in Limón and commuted two or three hours daily. When I had my baby, and after maternity leave, they didn’t give me my job back,” says Yamileth. Her position at the Association allowed her to be close to her home in Pocora and to enjoy her maternity with greater flexibility because she was working part-time. EARTH is an important place for her and her family.

“What I like most about my job is knowing that employees are a priority. Knowing that I can be useful to them makes me feel good. I like taking care of people, feeling that I am collaborating in their progress,” she says.

For Yamileth, motherhood is the greatest gift she has been given as a woman. It’s a choice that has made her immensely happy and has taught her a lot. She now also enjoys being a grandmother and is also learning from this facet.

And that is what freedom is all about: women can choose their own path.

Thank you, EARTH women, for teaching us so much!