Sunday, March 08, 2009

International Women's Day

Since March, 8th is International Women's Day, I want to highlight one of the many programs designed to help women in other countries and which through them helps entire communities.

Fighting Violence Against Women, One Coffee Bean at a Time

How women in Honduras are using economic opportunity to fight domestic violence and save lives.

When Dulce Marlene Contreras started her organization with seven of her friends, the first thing on her mind was how to help the women of Honduras protect themselves from domestic violence. A daughter of farmers in the rural region of La Paz, Honduras, Marlene was tired of watching the women of her community endure widespread alcoholism and household abuse. In 1993, Marlene founded the Coordinadora de Mujeres Campesinas de La Paz, or COMUCAP, to raise awareness about women’s rights. The organization started by educating women in the community about their rights and training them to stand up for themselves. But as time went by Marlene noticed that something was missing.

While awareness-building was critical, in order to reduce violence for the long-term COMUCAP had to attack the problem at its root: poverty. “We realized that until women are economically empowered, they will not be empowered to escape abuse for good,” says Marlene.

Poverty itself is not the cause of domestic violence, but poverty can be a trap keeping women in violent relationships and economic stress can help abusers rationalize attacking someone in their family. If women can take effective action to get out of an abusive relationship that teaches their children an important lesson.

Just as important of a lesson is for communities to see that empowering women and opposing domestic violence doesn't diminish men or undermine the positive side of their communities.

Seeing this link changed the way COMUCAP approached its work. In addition to rights awareness workshops, it started training women to grow and sell organic coffee and aloe vera, helping them earn an income for their families. Initially the reaction from the community was hostile – women’s empowerment was seen as a threat to families.

I recommend reading the rest of the article on this program.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:27 AM   0 comments links to this post


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