Connecting in Latin America
Last week, 24 CEDPA GWIM alumni from eight countries were brought together by Plan International USA and ExxonMobil to form a Latin America CEDPA GWIM Alumni Network. Among them was Alicia del Socorro Meneses, a graduate of a 2009 GWIM workshop.
Alicia's History with Plan
Alicia, already eager to form the network, was excited when she heard that CEDPA was now part of Plan. Two of the most influential forces in her career had joined to become one.
She first heard about Plan International in 1986. Alicia is from the Aguablanca (Whitewater) district in Cali, Colombia, where most people are internally displaced. She heard of an organization named Plan International that improved communities through sponsored children.
Alicia enrolled her son, and began organizing her neighbors. The group presented Plan with a project idea to build a sewer system for the community.
“Plan accepted the project, but we had to pay a portion of the cost, and provide the labor,” she explained.
The project was a success and the group grew. They developed 19 projects that led to indoor plumbing, indoor kitchens and additional living quarters for the 100 families that were in the group. With Plan as their advocate, the local government allowed them access to the city utility systems.
Alicia Attends Her First CEDPA Workshop
Through that experience, Alicia recognized her skills at organizing people and dedicated her life to working for her community. In 2009, she met the first lady of Colombia, who told Alicia about the CEDPA GWIM program and encouraged her to apply.
“The workshop had a major impact on me, despite all of my experience,” she explained. “CEDPA gave me strength and more tools.”
After the workshop, she returned to Cali and made history by becoming the first “woman of the neighborhood” to be nominated for a departmental-level congressional seat. Unfortunately, Alicia did not win, but she found the process invigorating.
Alicia and Her Fellow Alumni Form a Regional Network
When the opportunity to attend the alumni event arose, Alicia was excited. She and her fellow alumni from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and Peru spent a week in Buenos Aires building the alumni network.
With guidance from facilitators, the 24 participants decided on a vision and mission, designed an organizational structure, and formed committees to support women’s leadership in Latin America.
Alicia and the other alumni enthusiastically signed the Memorandum of Association, committing their time and energy to the newly-formed MUA Network – Women Agents of Change.
“It will not be easy,” said Alicia. “But, I know… that with our effort and the skills and knowledge that we learned from GWIM, we will make it work.”
The ExxonMobil Foundation’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative has generously sponsored the CEDPA GWIM program since 2005.
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