Coming from a family of strong hardworking women I have found my interest in social work focused on working with women and families. Hence my decision to volunteer with Fundacion En Via who works with Oaxacan women by helping empower them through skill building courses and financial support. Below are a few snapshots of the most precious moments shared with a few of the amazing women I met this summer.
Mujeres de Guelace: Comunidad Femenil
Women of Guelace: Community of Women
In a small dirt road town twenty minutes outside of Oaxaca I would meet with six women to teach a business course on money management. What began as a simple course requirement, for the women to complete in order to obtain a small micro-loan, transformed into a space of exchange. The women were told that the course would last one hour but the knowledge and experience of the women facilitated the course and shorten the classes to forty minutes. Initially the remaining twenty minutes were used for questions or discussion, but gradually became a space of conversation and community building.
One day after a lesson on “Dividing Business Money from Personal Money” the women began to share, with my peer (Polly) and me, about their personal hardships. They explained how they were not able to attend school to study a career (even when some had wanted to), they shared how they married and had children at a young age, they told of how they dreamed of a better life. Their stories were touching and moving, each woman was sincere and willing to share their life. Then they gave us advice: “sigan estudiando” (continue to study), “la educación comienza en el hogar” (education begins in the home), “disfruten su vida antes de casarse” (enjoy your life before getting married), “al marido se le avisa no se le pide permiso” (you notify your husband, you don’t ask for permission) and so many more.
I was amazed on how this simple one hour space for a business course organically gave fruit to a safe space, to a women’s group. All of these women who were neighbors, friends or simple acquaintances were able to feel safe and comfortable to share in an outdoor front patio of a small humble and beautiful home with two American women the story of their lives. It was a privilege and an honor to be part of this experience and to exchange knowledge with these admirably hardworking women. The Women of Guelace, I will never forget their laughter, their sincerity and their warmth. Gracias (Thank you)!
Trenzas, Aretes, Mandiles: Feminismo Femenil
Braids, Earrings, Aprons: Feminine Feminism
Their skirts: Bright blue, green, pink, red
Their earrings: Shiny gold
Their aprons: Plaid patterned, with flowers and lace on the edges
Their hair: Thick long dark brown and in braids
Their eyes: Curious and wise
Their smile: Warm and welcoming
Their language: Zapotec and Spanish
Their shoes: Huaraches o descalzas (sandals or barefoot)
The Women of San Miguel del Valle
Luchonas ( fighters)
From mototaxi drivers to tortilleras (tortilla makers) to vendedoras de jugos (juice vendors).
All of the women proudly representing and keeping alive their indigenous heritage.
Their apparel, a testimony to the colonization imposed on them.
But their language (Zapotec) a sign of their resistance and roots.
A clan of women in the town, a family where there are no males.
No husbands, no brothers, no sons.
Only strong united women working and supporting each other.
Some people in their town say their are vulnerable and at risk.
But in actuality they represent the strength and capability of the women of San Miguel.
This clan of women, this family of only females who wear bright colorful dresses, aprons, long earrings, long braids and sandals.
Ellas son el feminismo femenil (They are the feminine feminist)
Luchando por Vivir
Fighting to Live
Mano a mano la madre y su hija estan luchando
La madre por su hija y sus nietos
La hija por sus hijos y su vida
Los esposos ya no estan, no regresaran
Una casa, dos mujeres, dos niños, un sueldo
Sufrimiento, dolor, cansancio, agonía
Se vive dia a dia
Sale, se limpia y vuelve a entrar
Han fallado sus riñones
Pero hay que esperar
Un donante compatible y disponible para dar
Dinero, gastó, una gran cantidad
No tienen, no hay, de donde sacar
Trabaja la madre para poder ajustar
Pero los pesos son pocos y el costo monstruoso
Mas no se dan por vencidas
No cuando aún hay vida
Su fe es grande y su amor poderoso
Es por eso que siguen luchando dia tras dia
La madre y la hija no se dan por vencidas
Luchando por sus vidas
The above is an account of mother and daughter who I had the privilege of meeting. I share their story of unity and struggle as they face tremendous hardship. The mother, an older woman in her late fifties or early sixties and a daughter in her early thirties. The mother lives with her daughter and her two grandchildren, she is the sole provider in the household. The husbands of both women are no longer in the household. The daughter suffers from kidney failure and is currently receiving dialysis and is waiting for kidney transplant. The treatment is expensive and draining on the daughter. She must travel into the city, which is twenty-five minutes away from her home (they live outside of the city of Oaxaca in a small town). But even through all of their difficulties they remain united and hopeful. They do not know how their story will end; if they will have enough to continue purchasing medication, if their will be a compatible donor or if they will be able to pay for the transplant. All they can count on is each other and their faith.