Lady Luck

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Mexican WomenThey make up 70% of the world’s poor. They are the majority of the hundreds of millions living on less than a dollar a day. They are often the last to eat, yet the first to face the brunt of the consequences of their poverty. In many countries their rights are virtually non-existent, and yet they continue to hold on, they continue to dream, and most importantly, they continue to work towards a future. They are the women of the developing world, and though they may remain unnamed in our time, I am convinced that their names will echo throughout eternity. Many of them sacrifice their lives for their children and a distant hope of a future: they work tirelessly for little to no pay or recognition, and yet they still find it within themselves to put others first. In our limited experience in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), we have been honored to call some of these women our friends.Mexican Mother and ChildrenFour hours south of Tijuana, Mexico, in the San Quentin Valley, is a small, nondescript town called Benito Garcia. Like many small towns all over the developing world, it has the basics: the families that call it home, the roosters that call the community to an early rise, children that play in the streets, and of course, the stories that are within. In this community, we have found women whose stories have not only touched our hearts and called us to action, but they have inspired us to see what courage can look like: they are the women of the Benito Garcia Women’s Cooperative. Their president is Micaela Agudo Lopez. She is 26 years old and the mother of three children. Micaela came to Baja from Oaxaca when she was aroundMexican Home 16 years old. Micaela and the other ten women who are a part of the cooperative are internal migrant workers. They are part of a workforce of women all over the world who are forced to move for work, and once they have moved often lack any funds to return home. They are forced to live where they are left, literally strangers in their own country. Unlike the Spanish speaking world around them, their first language is Oaxacan (pronounced wuh-hawk-un), and therefore their only employment options are working in the huge fields and ranches as hired hands in the fields, often working 6-7 days a week.Micaela began to dream about what it would be like to be able to have a better life for herself and her children. What if their children didn’t need to work in the fields with her and her husband, and could go to school instead? What if they could actually provide the money needed to send them to school, without having to be relegated to the back breaking labor of the fields? Any good idea needs someone to believe in it, and when we heard Micaela’s plan, we knew that we could sell others on the idea. Micaela rallied nine other women to join her, and they began to petition the government for land and permission to start the cooperative. The government, after a year of petitioning and requesting, finally told the women they could buy land if they had a business plan and the actual ability to buy the property. Given the financial state of each of the women (many of them single mothers with many children to feed), you would think that they may have seen this as a reason to give up, but not these women – they saw it as another step up and out of the blinding poverty they refused to let rule their lives. Their passion captured the hearts of a group of seniors from Penticton, B.C. and within months, they had raised the $15,000 needed to build and establish their women’s cooperative, “Women Fighting for a Better Future”. Hero Holiday teams helped them to build their cooperative in the fall of 2008, and it is an experience that has been marked by the understanding of how powerful it is when we all work together for equality and hope. The cooperative is run by ten women who share the workload and the income, and now, instead of working the fields, they work together to build their own business. They sell groceries and other items, and are even planning on installing a greenhouse next fall, in order to grow their own fruits and vegetables and increase their profit margins.When Micaela was asked why she does not move back to Oaxaca state and start to build another cooperative, she admits she is not yet ready for that move. Though she hates being so far away from family, she is unable to go back: in Oaxaca, Micaela is convinced that her life would be in jeopardy because of the societal pressure to leave women repressed, without rights, and without a voice. A woman who speaks up for this is a woman who puts her family in danger. For now, she is content to stay in Benito Garcia and help to empower these women and give their daughters a brighter future.March 8, 2009 marked the 98th birthday of International Women’s Day. Two-thirds of the world’s uneducated children are girls, and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women. To be born a girl is to already be behind the eight ball in many parts of the world: the risks of childbirth (every minute, one woman dies from childbirth- this alone counts for the death of over half a million women a year), the lack of land and business ownership leaves them often with too few resources to raise their family (only 1% of the land owned in the world is owned by women), and the violence that many women are left powerless to deal with (millions of women are sexually abused, exploited, and used as “weapons of war” throughout the world each Hero Holiday Project in Mexicoyear). There is much to be done to bring women up to a point of equality and freedom, but there are some bright lights that we have had the privilege to work with recently through Hero Holiday. Micaela, you are one of those bright lights. Your courage and drive has not only inspired the women in your community, but you have shown us that to dream of change is only the beginning…fighting for change is how it happens. Thank you.Hero Holiday ParticipantLiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) runs many Hero Holiday trips throughout the year to Mexico. In Mexico, we focus on community development and poverty alleviation through building houses, community buildings and cooperatives such as the one in Benito Garcia. This is possible because of people like Micaela, and people like you. Please consider joining with us to see more change happen.Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~ Winston Churchill

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 13th, 2009