Taylor Says Goodbye

This June marks my last month as a St. Joseph Worker for Mary’s Pence.

Since August, I’ve participated in a service program through the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet emphasizing social justice, community, spirituality and leadership. There were twelve women in the program this year, each in a different placement.

(From left) Nadine, Grace, Taylor and Katherine from the Mary's Pence office

(From left) Nadine, Grace, Taylor and Katherine from the Mary’s Pence office

Mary’s Pence was my full-time placement. I worked in communications and whatever else needed to be done. I had the opportunity to join the grants selection committee twice, implement social media strategy, speak about the Mary’s Pence Grants program at events and conferences and work closely with ESPERA staff to create a written history of the ESPERA community lending pool program. All of this has allowed me to hone my writing skills and passion for both social justice and accompanying women.

Mary’s Pence taught me a great deal about international development. There is a right way to give and to work in solidarity with “the poor and vulnerable” as Catholic Social Teaching says. Mary’s Pence was founded to provide women greater access to resources—that is to say, to put money in the hands of women who have projects that are creating lasting good in the world—and that’s exactly what Mary’s Pence is doing today, and what drew me to this community.

When I started this year in the St. Joseph Worker Program, I didn’t define community in any particular way. I thought of myself as highly independent, the kind of person who leaves her home state to go to college and travels internationally on her own. I still am that person, and I still value my independence, but after nearly a year of living with four other women and sharing meals, chores, dreams, ideas, fears, hopes, prayers and the ins and outs of our days working at social justice placements like Mary’s Pence, I now value community very highly, and consider myself part of many communities, including my university and church communities, my family and friends, and the national and international Mary’s Pence community. Relationships with the women of Mary’s Pence staff, board members, ESPERA women, grantees, donors I’ve met, have all strengthened my place in this community.

Grants committee, grants calls, grants articles where I got to interview grantees. ESPERA History, working with Gilda and Gaby, learning about the women’s businesses and way of life and challenges and triumphs and community. Learning so much. Writing about it.

I was initially drawn to Mary’s Pence because we do social justice at home and abroad—right under our noses and far away where our actions affect the most vulnerable. There were also spiritual and very feminist components that drew me in, and continued to engage me in the work throughout the year. I’m proud to have been a part of the almost 30-year history of Mary’s Pence.

As I turn to go, I am struck by the enduring compassion and fiery passion everyone who’s involved in Mary’s Pence holds for the work and the women, from members of Concerta to Gaby and Gilda, to former board members Judy and Pat, to current board members, to past staff members, to Katherine and Grace and Nadine in the office, interns and volunteers, and the donors we meet at conferences and who call or send us note, and remind us how engaged they are with the work all of us through Mary’s Pence. Communities of women in working solidarity with one another, this is Mary’s Pence, and this is bigger than any one of us. That’s what I’ve been a part of this year, and that’s why I’ll continue to support Mary’s Pence as I move on from my year as a St. Joseph Worker.

Taylor Harwood was a 2015-2016 St. Joseph Worker for Mary’s Pence.


Posted in Reflections, Spiritual, Theological, and Otherwise | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Meet Mary’s Pence: Maggie

Good morning Mary’s Pence supporters, readers, and grantees!

Meet Maggie

Maggie and her godson, Seth, on the St. Kate’s St. Paul campus.

My name is Maggie Singerhouse, and I have recently started my position as the Development and Communications Intern at Mary’s Pence. My work this summer is supported by the Career Ready Internship Program through the Center for Community Work and Learning (CWL) at St. Catherine University (St. Kate’s). This program allows junior and senior students to have internships at non-profit organizations, such as Mary’s Pence.

Over this summer, I will be working with a variety social media platforms, learning about grant writing and editing, and writing articles about Mary’s Pence grantees. When I was initially applying for internships, Mary’s Pence message of women empowerment truly resonated with me, as I hope to teach at a women’s university one day. Furthermore, I was inspired by the inclusion of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching in our work to advocate for women in Northern and Central America. These principles have been enforced throughout my college education and are considered the core of the St. Kate’s social justice initiative. While I have always found that many of these principles intertwine, one has stood out to me as the most paramount: the principle of solidarity.

Meet Maggie Herb

Maggie posing with the Herb Brooks sculpture at the River Center in downtown St. Paul, MN.

Solidarity promotes the recognition of ourselves and others as significant individuals who are part of the human family. This principle disapproves of violence against others and instead stands for peace and the common good. It is a principle that I actively attempt to engage in my daily life. In my first few days as an intern at Mary’s Pence, I’ve witnessed the importance of this principle in our work. Whether we are publicly establishing solidarity with women across the Americas through social media outreach, working to help women advocate for themselves or encouraging each other to address social justice issues effectively, solidarity is a consistent theme.

In the autumn, I will be returning to school for my final year at St. Kate’s where I hold several roles: Editor-in-Chief of The Wheel newspaper, Senior Representative for the St. Kate’s Senate, neuroscience/biology research assistant, and Student Coordinator for the Assistantship Mentoring Program through CWL. In my free time I enjoy cooking, reading, going for runs, and exploring the Twin Cities. I will be graduating in May 2017 with a baccalaureate in neuroscience. After I graduate, I hope to attend graduate school and eventually receive a Ph.D. in neuroscience. My long-term goals are to perform neuroscience research on Alzheimer’s disease and cognition, publish articles in scientific journals, and teach neuroscience or biology courses at a women’s university.

I’m really looking forward to working with such an inspiring group of hard-working women this summer. This journey will allow me to learn more about writing and communications, social justice, and women’s advocacy/empowerment in ways that will be applicable to my future, while also making an important difference in the lives of women.

Posted in News and Events | 1 Comment

Drought in Central America: Snapshot from Concertación in El Salvador

By Gaby Bandini, ESPERA Business Facilitator

More than 30% of the population in Nicaragua and Honduras, 25% of Guatemala and 20% and El Salvador live in poverty. In February 2013, the research organizations CRS, CIMMYT  & CIAT [1] published the results of an impact analysis about the effects that climate change can have on El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua’s corn and bean production by 2025. The panorama shown was not positive for most of the countries, except for Guatemala, which will have better opportunities in production due favorable conditions in its mountainous region.

Photo by Mirna

Photo by Mirna

In Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador changes in climate are prolonging drought; combined with the current soil degradation and poverty levels within these three Central American countries, at least 1 million of small farmers who produce 70% of the local consumption of corn and 100% of the region’s auto consumption of beans [2] will struggle in the next ten years with a significant reduction in production levels for the two most socially, economically and culturally important crops within the region.

A significant reduction in those yields could have severe effects in food security and sovereignty of people in rural areas; especially in El Salvador, which has been shown to be more vulnerable in terms of food access and stability of future food supply, followed by Honduras and Nicaragua [3].

For Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, corn and beans are the main source of nutrition and energy within households and culturally are present in almost all traditional dishes; in average consumption per capita in these 4 countries is 76.4kg of corn and 13.9 kg of beans. In El Salvador for example, most traditional and daily basis dishes use corn and beans as main ingredients, including pupusas, tamales, atol, pastel de carne, empanadas de plátano y frijol, enchiladas, pacalla and chilate.

Photo by Mirna

Photo by Mirna

Vilma, the local ESPERA coordinator of Concertación de Mujeres de Suchitoto, reported some of the effects that drought has had in women’s milpa (the name used in Latin America for the traditional way of sowing that combines beans and corn in the same field) during the 2015 agricultural cycle. Usually farmers have one harvest of corn per year and the opportunity to grow twice as many beans during the same period.

With a lack of rain during more than 20 days of the first harvest period, at least 8 women from 3 different communities of ESPERA groups lost their entire milpa plantations. Even though they tried to sow beans in the second period, the harvest was not enough to meet their family needs for the year; therefore, they had to buy beans and corn needed for regular consumption and the loan that was invested in inputs like fertilizers got lost too.

Photo by Mirna

Photo by Mirna

According to local ESPERA coordinator Eva’s information, when a harvest is good, women usually get from one plot 60 quintales (eq.100 kg each) of corn; however, during 2015 most of them got only 35 quintales. A good harvest of beans can normally bring 16 quintales, but in 2015 most of the women got 8 quintales or nothing.

At the national level, Eva said it is estimated that during 2015 El Salvador lost 14 million quintales of corn and 142 thousand quintales of beans, affecting more than 104 municipalities located mainly in the eastern part of the country. The food security of families is highly dependent on climate change.

With a deficit in production, El Salvador usually imports corn from the U.S. and México and beans from Nicaragua and China. Prices during 2015 in Suchitoto were around US$35 per quintal of beans and US$18.50 per quintal of corn during harvest period.

Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador share some characteristics of vulnerability in food security, mostly related with a low ability to adapt to climate changes:

“Rural households will go through a particularly difficult time to deal with climate change where infrastructure (equipment and road) is inadequate, access to natural resources (water and land) is limited, financial resources are scarce and capital is very weak (specifying social capital as lack of organization among small producers).” [4] (p.2)

In this sense ESPERA, together with the women’s organizations, attempts to sort challenges that women farmers are facing, like the lack of access to traditional financial resources, and to reinforce social capital, taking action by organizing themselves.

Women in the Chaguitón Community in El Salvador recieved new loans at the end of May 2016. They displayed great enthusiasm in taking measures to prevent major losses with their new loans. One of the women will plant the majority of her crops on in a different area near her community, while two other women have decided to invest their loans, $300 each, in other activities—cattle and a store.

This is part three of a three-part series on the drought in Central America and its effect on the women of ESPERA, as reported by ESPERA staff. Click here for parts one and two.

Written with support from Taylor Harwood.

[1] Catholic Rescue Services (CRS), Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT) and Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT)
[2] Eitzinger A; Läderach P; Sonder K; Schmidt A; Sain G; Beebe S; Rodríguez B; Fisher M; Hicks P; Navarrete-Frías C; Nowak A. 2012. Tortillas en el comal: Los sistemas de maíz y fríjol de América Central y el cambio climático, CIAT Políticas en Síntesis No. 6. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia. 6 p.
[3] Ibid p.2
[4] Eitzinger A; Läderach P; Sonder K; Schmidt A; Sain G; Beebe S; Rodríguez B; Fisher M; Hicks P; Navarrete-Frías C; Nowak A. 2012. Tortillas en el comal: Los sistemas de maíz y fríjol de América Central y el cambio climático, CIAT Políticas en Síntesis No. 6. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Cali, Colombia. 6 p.
Posted in ESPERA Fund and Their Voices | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drought in Nicaragua Limits Access to Raw Material

In the last post, Mary’s Pence Local ESPERA Coordinator Auxiliadora wrote about the drought in Nicaragua and her visit to Doña Isabel. In this post, Auxiliadora brings us more experiences of the drought from the women of ESPERA.

From the neighboring community of El Portillo, Doña Trinidad also tells how this phenomenon is visibly affecting her in the manufacture of her artisan products, which use tusa, corn husks.

Doña Trinidad

“This drought is affecting me because the raw materials that we use have been scarce during this year because it didn’t rain last year,” Doña Trinidad said. “In our company, Compania de Odili, another member of the collective, between the months of January and March we usually start to collect the husks. Once we had to collect the husks from fields that were far away from our community so we didn’t have the opportunity to select them. Nearby there is a woman who provides us with husks on consignment from whom we used to buy between 6 and 8 sacks of individually-selected husks when the winter was good, but this year we only were able to obtain 2 sacks – one for each of us – for which we have had to save as much as possible to be able to make the products and fill some orders.”

“This situation really affects us a lot,” said Doña Trinidad, “because one of the difficulties that we face is that we can’t just tell a client that we don’t have raw material to make their orders; what we do is explain that there is a scarcity. It has been a struggle for us since due to this crisis we are paying more for all the raw materials and using what we have without wasting anything. On several occasions we have had to go out to other communities and look for the corn husks, the espigas (spikes), and other plants that we use to produce our products because we don’t want to lose a client due to lack of raw materials.”

el portillo 2

“This drought is economically affecting our nutrition because corn, beans, fruit, and vegetables are more expensive and what we make is not enough to be able to buy the necessary food.”

“Also,” Doña Trinidad continued, “with this drought, my sour orange, nance (nancite), and papaya trees, among other fruit trees that I had on my home’s patio for our personal consumption have dried out. Another problem that we have as an effect of the drought is the scarcity and rationing of water, high temperatures and a very hot sun.”

Doña Trinidad and the other members of the collective are facing the challenge of this environmental crisis together, adapting to the circumstances of the drought as creatively they can despite the real hardships it brings.

Translated from the Spanish by Luisa María Rivera Izábal and Shelley Coppock.

This is part two of a three-part series on the drought in Central America and its effect on the women of ESPERA, as reported by ESPERA staff. Check back for the final post during the last week of May.

Posted in ESPERA Fund and Their Voices | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Drought in Nicaragua: Environmental and Human Crisis

According to the environmental organization Centro Humboldt, Nicaragua is confronting “the most profound environmental crisis in recent history.”

Between 2011 and 2016 there has been a reduction in forest coverage of more than 36,000 hectares (roughly 100,000 acres). In addition to the loss of forests, the principal bodies of surface water in the country have lost water, including the large lakes of Cocibolca and Xolotlan, and the El Coco, Grande de Matagalpa and San Juan rivers. This has created a drought across Nicaragua and other parts of Central America, disrupting the daily lives of women, their businesses, and their communities.

Faced with a drought affecting the entire country, local ESPERA coordinator Auxiliadora traveled to the Campuzano, El Portillo and El Papayal communities of Nindiri-Masaya. This is what she learned.

Like many communities in Nicaragua, these communities where ESPERA women live are affected in particular ways. In the case of the Papayal community, they were without potable water for nine months of the past year. After several popular protests directed at the municipal authorities, they now have obtained this service, but it is severely rationed, so much so that, according to Santos Ampie (Leader of the Colectivo Sol de Vida), once a week they have to fill up all the receptacles that they have in the Medina Natural shop in order to make their products. This amount of water runs out in just one day, which has greatly affected the women because it has caused their production to decline, especially in the last two months during which the days have been hotter.

Orchard plants affected by the drought. Lemons, papayas, Cocoa

Orchard plants affected by the drought: Lemons, papayas, cocoa

Another problem affecting the women in the Colectivo Sol de Vida is the scarcity of medicinal plants that they utilize in each of their products, caused by the heating up of the sun and the soils. Two years of drought has had a great effect on the plants. This is an economic difficulty since they are paying more for the plants and ingredients like honey as a result of the drought.

In the Campuzano community, the women and their families are also hard hit by the drought because the majority of their fruit trees and orchards are drying out or are completely dried up. In the Papayal community people also suffer from the scarcity of water and for this reason the women and their families have to dig holes to extract water from the ground. This scarcity has arisen due to the high temperatures that have dried up some wells.

Doña Isabel from the Colectivo Mujeres en Prosperidad (Women in Prosperity) and inhabitant of the Campuzano community explains how she has been affected by the drought:


Doña Isabel, Campuzano-Nindiri Community

“The drought is affecting me a lot because, with the drought that we had last year and the high temperatures this year, I don’t have the orchards ready. Previously at this time of the year I already had the seedlings going so that when the ‘winter’ rains came I just had to transplant them but since it didn’t rain I couldn’t do this this year. Due to the drought we have drinking water severely rationed because we don’t get enough so I can’t even water the seeds to have them ready.”

“Economically, this drought affects me because we used to plant pipian (squash), ayote (pumpkin), lemon trees and sour orange trees. All of these trees are drying out. I used to take the production of these plants to the market to sell, but now since there is none, how am I going to substitute it if everything is drying out? For this reason, I am being affected a lot economically because now I can’t sell the products that I used to cultivate. This drought also affects us with the sun being very strong. My mother suffers from high blood pressure and so do I and this affects us a lot… For us it has been a disaster that the well dried up because of the drought. It was a big blow because we used to help ourselves with it and now that it is dry and there is hardly any drinking water that comes – it only comes every other day and just a little bit just to drink and bathe. We only have water for the basics.”

Showing her dry lemon and orange trees

Doña Isabel, showing her dry lemon and orange trees

As I walked over Doña Isabel’s land with her, she expressed that she loves having both ornamental and fruit plans. During the walk she showed me what her orchard had looked like and the different plants that have dried out during these last two years of drought, such as pomegranates, lemons, papayas and sour oranges. This year (2016) Doña Isabel is planning to replant different types of grafted plants like avocados, lemons, icaco (cocoaplum) and others during the winter [the rainy season] to see if she is successful once again in having an orchard to sell fruit and vegetables, to help herself economically.

“This year we are going to try [again],” said Doña Isabel, “trusting in God that the winter may be good.”

Translated from the Spanish by Luisa María Rivera Izábal and Shelley Coppock.

This is part one of a three-part series on the drought in Central America and its effect on the women of ESPERA, as reported by ESPERA staff. Check the blog for more in the month of May 2016.

Posted in ESPERA Fund and Their Voices | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grantee Spotlight: Women Workers United

This spring, Mary’s Pence granted to the Workers’ Rights Center (WRC) of Madison, Wisconsin, for the first time. The community center meets with roughly 500 workers a year, most of whom work in food service and other low-wage jobs, in both Madison and surrounding areas within Dane County, Wisconsin. The Mary’s Pence grant will help fund the WRC’s new project called Women Workers United, an extension of WRC that works specifically on issues facing Latina workers.

arah Smoot, Kristen Taylor and Graciela Laguna, staff members at the WRC

Sarah Smoot, Kristen Taylor and Graciela Laguna, staff members at the WRC

The Workers’ Rights Center uses what they refer to as “listening sessions.” Instead of more formal meetings, they use an open dialogue in order to better engage with community members. In this way, the participation of all listeners is expected, encouraged, and cultivated by the structure of the meetings. The need for assistance in dealing with workplace harassment of female workers was brought up during a listening session with a group of Latina women in Madison this past year.

Kristen Taylor is a Workers Advocate for the WRC and has been heavily involved in starting Women Workers United. She explains that the support group meetings for these women are “designed with the goal of providing a safe place for working women to relieve stress, build a network, openly share struggles … and educate [themselves] on women-related workplace topics.” In the preliminary listening session women mentioned both gender and pregnancy discrimination–as well as instances of sexual harassment–as issues they deal with in the workplace. These are some of the issues that will be discussed at the group’s first official listening session in June.

“We’ve seen a lot–at least this year–[of] pregnancy discrimination.” says Kristen. But the state of governance in the area makes it hard to address these legal problems and create workable solutions. “In Wisconsin right now, with the government we have constantly attacking workers’ rights…it’s really tough dealing with that.” The WRC also battles issues such as paid family leave, child care, delayed worker promotions, and wage theft.

Kristen says that the organization tries to encourage the women to be the ultimate catalysts of change in resolving their workplace conflicts. The WRC provides the assistance, materials and resources necessary to help the women accomplish that change.

“We’d like to give them the push to have a voice in the community,” says Kristen. “That’s the goal–to give them what they need to do something about it.”

As part of Kristen’s work she meets one-on-one with workers to discuss any issues they are having at their workplace. She educates them on their rights, and also explain possible solutions that have worked well for other clients with similar issues. If necessary, Kristen also directs them to government agencies that might be able to help, if an employer is refusing to pay or there is an issue the WRC cannot deal with on its own.

Kristen has been helping to guide the first steps of Women Workers United. Even prior to the inception of the new project idea, she heard multiple testimonials from Latina workers on unfair treatment and hostile working conditions.

“We just have to be patient with it, especially since it’s such a new project,” explains Kristen. “We’re just laying down all the groundwork for it this [year.] We want to be able to form that network in the community first.”

Kristen expresses how difficult it is to deal with a system that doesn’t give Latino workers fair compensation. But she also shares her hope for the future and knows what the signs of change will be.

“Once we start seeing women come together and actually start voicing more opinions,” says Kristen, “that’s going to be one major sign.” Women Workers United will be the first step in creating a self-empowering group such as this.

Written by Katie Bowden, Spring Intern.

Posted in Grantees | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Mother Helps Her Daughter Overcome Obstacles with ESPERA

Eva is the ESPERA Promoter for El Salvador and Honduras, which means that supports women participating in the ESPERA community lending pools as they decide how to invest their loans and helps them problem solve when obstacles arise. She has been working with Mary’s Pence since 2012, and has worked with many women during that time. But one woman in particular makes her work deeply personal.

Eva poses with a certificate she received after doing an economic training course with leaders of the Concertacion de Mujeres, our partner organization in Suchitoto, El Salvador.

Eva poses with a certificate she received after doing an economic training course with leaders of the Concertacion de Mujeres, our partner organization in Suchitoto, El Salvador.

Carolina is Eva’s 21 year old daughter. When she was four years old doctors discovered a disease on her vocal cords that would cause them to swell and asphyxiate her. Since then she has had 15 preventative surgeries. However, these lifesaving surgeries destroyed her voice so that she speaks very quietly, and employers have used this to discriminate against her saying that it makes her unable to perform adequately.
Eva explained, “That’s why I saw the possibility for her to start a small business that would generate income, because then I was responsible for the wellbeing of Carolina and her two children. So I saw the possibility for her to join two other women in the community and ask for a loan from the local ESPERA group.”

Carolina makes a fresh strawberry juice, which she pours over ice and sells. She invests in this business with her loan from the ESPERA community lending pool.

Carolina makes a fresh strawberry juice, which she pours over ice and sells. She invests in this business with her loan from the ESPERA community lending pool.

Eva beams with pride now when she speaks about her daughter who has just received her third loan, “Now Carolina is a woman who is fighting for her independence and autonomy, making her own decisions and generating resources to ensure her son and daughter get ahead. She is a woman who is organized with other women in her community.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Inching Toward Courage: A Book Review of In the Time of the Butterflies

Taylor is the 2015-2016 St. Joseph Worker volunteer for Mary’s Pence.

inTheTimeOfTheButterfliesThere’s little I love better than losing myself in a book, especially on a snowy spring day in Minnesota. I recently turned to the Mary’s Pence reading list from last summer for reading suggestions, and selected Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies. The novel stood out to me because I enjoy reading historical fiction and stories of women’s lives.

At its heart, In the Time of the Butterflies is about courage and family, the prices of freedom and regret, and the necessity of sacrifice. Alvarez’s story is a fictional imagining of the daily lives of the true-life Mirabal sisters, who lived in the Dominican Republic under the repressive dictatorship of General Trujillo (1930-1961). The Mirabal sisters were known within the revolutionary movement as Las Mariposas, The Butterflies. The novel switches between the voices of the three sisters who would eventually be assassinated on a lonely mountain road on Trujillo’s orders, and the reminiscences of Dedé, the sole surviving sister.

Alvarez depicts the voices of the sisters in varying stages of their lives, from teenagers in school to young mothers, from women pursuing careers and families to determined revolutionaries.

 “I got braver like a crab going sideways. I inched towards courage the best way I could, helping out with the little things.” – Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies

Patria is very religious and family-oriented. She’s the oldest, the first to marry, and her experience as a mother is what leads her to finally risk everything, including her husband’s ancestral farm, to rebel against the dictatorship. At first, she tries to stay away from her sisters’ roles in the resistance movement in order to protect her family. But as her eyes are opened, she takes courage inch by inch and joins her sisters so her children can have a safer life.

Dedé is hardworking and nostalgic. She raises her sisters’ children and spends the rest of her life keeping the memory of Las Mariposas alive.

Minerva is the driving revolutionary force of the family. From a young age, she is drawn to stand up for justice. When she learns of Trujillo’s brutality from her school friends, Minerva realizes that, for all her hard-earned independence, she has “just left a small cage to go into a bigger one, the size of our whole country,” and she joins other young revolutionaries. In one scene, Minerva tries to free a caged rabbit, only to find that the rabbit refuses to leave its cage. Determined not to become trapped in her own mind by societal expectations, Minerva searches for freedom, first by leaving her family to study and create a life of her own, and then by agitating at the heart of the revolutionary movement.

Mate, the baby of the family, idolizes Minerva and follows her into the underground resistance movement.

“I asked Minerva why she was doing such a dangerous thing. And then, she said the strangest thing. She wanted me to grow up in a free country.” – Julia Alvarez, In the Time of the Butterflies

Alvarez doesn’t portray the sisters as martyrs on pedestals, their courage untouched by the trivia and struggles of daily life. Under Alvarez’s hands, the Mirabal sisters behave like real people. They are women in love, women raising families in less-than-ideal circumstances, women who make mistakes and disagree and do the work that must be done. They are feminist icons as well as revolutionaries, claiming important roles that generally weren’t open to women at the time. Acting in opposition to Trujillo puts their family in danger, threatens their livelihood, and requires tremendous sacrifice of each family member. They don’t always agree on what is the right thing to do, but they stand together.

In the Time of the Butterflies tells us that we can take courage in the everyday choices that we make; more than that, it tells us that we must take courage, lest our fear and silence prop up unjust systems.

The Mirabal sisters stand for many of the values that Mary’s Pence is rooted in: They were community-centered women leaders who dedicated their lives to social justice, worked for the common good and human dignity, and participated in creating change in unjust structures.

For more reading recommendations, check out last summer’s reading list here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Grantees – Spring 2016

Mary’s Pence is proud to announce the latest Mary’s Pence Grantees:

Artistri Sud
Temuco, Chile / Quebec, Canada
Artistri Sud is a Canadian charity that microfunds female artisans in hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty. They work mainly with the Mapuche women of Chile to create a sustainable income out of the products they sell. Since receiving their first Mary’s Pence grant in 2014, Artistri Sud has continued to build capacity for women’s leadership development and economic empowerment through its Social Entrepreneurship Training and Train-the-Trainer programs. The women of Artistri Sud problem-solve in groups and spend some of their earnings towards the nutrition and education of young girls, who are often marginalized in the developing world.

Ollantaytambo, Peru / Savannah, GA
Awamaki centers its mission in rural Peru. Since 2009, it has given Andean women and families access to higher income by recycling the profits from artisan products back into local businesses and community. The hand-woven textiles, knitwear and spun products are sold both within the women’s communities and in the United States through partner retailers. Awamaki’s third grant from Mary’s Pence will help the organization send two of their Peruvian staff to present their cooperative model at a U.S. symposium on the textile industry in Savannah, GA. At the symposium, Awamaki staff will share their knowledge of women’s cooperatives and experience as indigenous artisans with an international audience.

Center for Women in Transition
Little Rock, AK
CWIT prevents recidivism by helping formerly incarcerated women transition back into society. Founded by a Catholic sister, CWIT staff mentors the women personally, teaches life skills classes prior to release, and supports them in completing education and finding steady employment once they re-enter society. The program empowers women and girls to advocate for themselves. In February 2016, CWIT expanded its life skills education program to include over 100 incarcerated teen girls. Since 2005, CWIT has helped over 2,000 women through its collaboration with community organizations and the judicial system, which often releases women to CWIT for probation in lieu of prison.

Oakland, CA
A three-time Mary’s Pence grantee, Genesis was created in 2007 to advance economic, gender and racial equality in the San Francisco Bay Area. Faith congregations and unions serve as the project’s main stakeholders and decision-makers, and together they have successfully implemented measures such as the Youth Bus Program in a county where no public school transportation is provided. Among their current goals are campaigns to make criminal justice policies more restorative and better funding for programs aimed at people with disabilities. This Mary’s Pence grant will be used to train women with developmental disabilities in advocacy and the process of voter registration.

Kinship Care Campaign
Cincinnati, OH
The Contact Center’s Kinship Care Campaign is a community-based, women-led organization that deals mainly with economic and social justice issues pertaining to kinship care. Kinship care is foster care alternative in which non-parent relatives and close family friends raise children. Funding for kinship guardians is disproportionately low. Kinship Care’s current advocacy is focused on changing laws to ensure that caretakers, mainly women, who are raising relatives will receive the same financial support as foster care providers.

MAYA Organization
Pittsburgh, PA
MAYA (Me And You Always) began as a full-service adoption agency that provided counseling for incarcerated pregnant women who put their children up for adoption. Their experience of the prison system led them to expand their services to include pro-bono counseling for any women incarcerated in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County Jail. Every week, women attend individual 60-minute counseling sessions to address issues of loss, trauma and addiction. Counseling is available after the women are released to ensure continued progress and maintain previously achieved goals. MAYA aims to replace recidivism with community reintegration.

New Sanctuary Movement – Mujeres Líderes
Milwaukee, WI
NSM was started in 2007 in response to a challenge to publicly stand in solidarity with immigrants. NSM works for immigration reform and organizes immigrant communities and allied faith communities to support families facing separation due to deportation. Women often become the sole heads of households in the U.S. when their husbands are incarcerated or deported. The Mary’s Pence Grant will fund a series of leadership trainings called Mujeres Líderes, or Women’s Leadership, that will provide immigrant women with the communication and organizing skills they need to bring about systemic change in the U.S. immigration system and in their communities.

Welcoming the Stranger
Warminster, PA
Welcoming the Stranger provides immigrant and refugee populations with educational and training opportunities. Their mission is focused on the Christian value of welcoming strangers into one’s community. Funding from Mary’s Pence will support a class on work skills and language improvement in a large immigrant community. Lessons are personalized to best meet students’ needs, including practical lessons, such as navigating the healthcare system, applying for credit, and interviewing for jobs. Students form networks, working together as a community. Welcoming the Stranger education classes offer students, the majority of whom are women, economic empowerment and a voice in the education and healthcare of their children.

Queens, NY
Wishwas works with Bangladeshi women in Queens, New York to help reduce the cultural barriers of a new country by providing the space for women to work together weekly at a local community center and receive training in running a cooperative business. Wishwas offers vocational skills and training to women who have few job opportunities and are not involved in the making of financial decisions within their households and communities. Wishwas cooperative training empowers women who may be victims of domestic violence or emotional abuse. The primary goal is to create self-sufficiency in the women and increase their recognition in the community as financial contributors and valid decision-makers.

Workers’ Rights Center
Madison, WI
The WRC was created by the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice after an investigation into the working conditions of Latino/a immigrants. The mission of WRC is to help recover unpaid wages, fund basic worker training in multiple languages, and provide training in self-representation, leadership, and organizational skills in order to foster individual and collective action. A grant from Mary’s Pence will allow the WRC to form an advocacy and support group for Latina workers, who deal with wage theft and discrimination at work, and immigration issues at home. The group will be a space for women to share challenges and organize to take action in their community.

Posted in Grantees | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment