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Somebody Had to Do It. So I Did

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I
n rural areas of Honduras, women are so confined that some can't even go to church by themselves. But after land reform in the 1970s, cooperative organizations of campesinos sprang up and they had roles for women: taking notes, pouring coffee, sweeping up after the meetings. I was one of those women until the day the men decided to send a few women to the city, Tegucigalpa, to be trained in leadership and advocacy.


During the first training our instructor told us, "If you go back to the way it was before, you haven't learned anything here. You need to start your own organizations." The older women were afraid to change anything, and we all felt some loyalty to those who had sent us, but I am a risk taker. Somebody had to do it. So I did.

The men at home were very negative. They called our trainers "hardheaded, crazy feminists." At first I had no idea how to start, but I worked for men and women both, and the men learned to respect me.

I abandoned my husband, my eight children, and my home as often as I needed to until I had enough training. Then I used my training to train others. My education became a collective process for the good of all.

We founded the Rural Women's Union (Uni?n de Mujeres Campesinas Hondure?as)in 1998 with just a few small groups, and today it has 6800 members. It has no paid staff. The leadership is a collective, and we have earned national and international recognition. Its mission is to raise the voice and the visibility of rural women.

It takes a strong will to speak up for women in an environment that doesn't respect them. But as structural adjustment takes its toll and poverty deepens, women are demanding organization. One woman alone can do very little. Gathered together we can transform our lives.

Alicia Calles, Honduras


This article was first published on Peace X Peace - A global network of women building a more balanced, peaceful world where our lives, stories, and voices are valued and honored.

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