By Kim Groves
In 1975, during International Women's Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March. Since then it has become a day where we can formally acknowledge the achievements, sacrifices and contributions that women have given to the world. It is a day to be proud and to celebrate the work that has been accomplished in women’s rights. It is also a day to recognise how much more we need to do to achieve women’s empowerment as well as harmony and mutual respect between the sexes.
As a not for profit microfinance organisation, Fundacion En Via lends to women with the belief that women invest in and plan for the futures of their families and positive development of their communities. As women, often indigenous, living in a regional area of Mexico, they can often experience unjust marginalisation from what is considered the main stream. They are dignified women, hardworking, and capable, and they make up vital parts of their communities. We endeavour to provide them with something that every woman in the world is entitled to; a chance at independence, empowerment, and a success story of their own writing.
Carlos Hernández Topete, En Via’s Executive Director, recently shared what International Women’s Day meant to him. What he said has really resonated with me. “It is a reminder that we should recognise women every day. They are half the talent and half the intelligence in the world. Imagine all of those women whose voices are not heard. We do not benefit from their input or from their thoughts. Their energy and potential is wasted”. For Carlos, and for all of us at En Via, it is important to work hard to include women every day, in every part of our society and life. Because what many people do not realise or acknowledge is that the empowerment of women benefits everyone.
With the aim of including the voices of women on this special day, and every day, I take pleasure in introducing you to some inspirational women who are working within the En Via program as borrowers and investors in a better future.
Amelí has been with the program since August 2011. She runs a small business selling potato fries and hamburgers in Diaz Ordaz, a small town in the Tlacolula Valley of Oaxaca. She is generous enough to offer her home as a place where all participating women in the town, and all those interested, can come to talk about their experiences and move through the process of receiving microloans.
Amongst the chatter of the group this week I asked her what she considered the best thing about being a woman. She quickly replied, “being a mother”. Her son, Axel, of 2 years and 7 months, was in her arms. I looked at them together, and I believed her.
When I asked her if she had advice or a message for other women, the positivity of her answer delighted me. She encourages women to animate! And to motivate! To get involved in programs like En Via, and to work towards having something for themselves, be it a business, a project, or an art. “To have something that is theirs”.
In another village called Tlacochahuaya, just a little way from Amelí’s, a woman called Soledad is growing something truly beautiful. This week she has received her very first interest free loan from En Via which she used to buy tools to work her small patch of land where she is sowing vegetables with her husband Mario.
As she showed me the patch of chard she was growing, I asked her what was the hardest thing about being a woman? She considered the question for a moment; “It would have to be maintaining a marriage”. And what is the key to harmonious relations between men and women according to Soledad? To have good character, and lots of love! She then told me that if her voice was louder, if women like her could change the world, she would prohibit drugs and alcohol that cause so much pain in many of the towns in the Valley, and help all those that are lacking and in need. She is 25 years old and I believe that she has already changed the world just by being herself and being brave enough to try.
There are scores of individuals and organisations in the world, both governmental and non-governmental that are working hard, each in their own ways, to bring about empowerment and recognition for women and a better future for all. Today, March 8th, we embrace all of them as well as all of you, our friends and supporters who have made our particular work in Oaxaca, Mexico, possible. Our hope is that International Women’s Day can be a reminder to us all to include women in everyday and in every part of this society that we continue to share and build together.