By Génesis Carrero Soto
Caracas, Mar 8 (EFE).- At a hilltop community garden in Caracas a group of women share tea and swap stories of empowerment.
For many of the women in the Dolorita parish of the Venezuelan capital, the concept of empowerment is relatively new, but it is one they have been able to develop thanks to the local NGO Mujeres Constructoras de Paz (lit. Women builders of peace).
The group, which has benefited some 600 members, empowers women and teaches them how to shape their reality and their surroundings.
It was through this initiative that Libia Domínguez, 62, learned that she was good at growing crops and had the ability to improve her and her family’s situation.
“People would stop and look and ask, ‘you are sowing (seeds)?’ because most women don’t do that, and I would say ‘yes, because I’m an empowered woman’,” she tells Efe, adding that she has gone from being a quiet woman to someone who recognizes her own value in her family and community.
Sipping hot tea, the women talk about their experiences and encourage each other to use positive language, both about themselves and about women in general.
They discuss how to provide for their families with the crops they grow in the garden, how to use menstrual cups when sanitary towels are too expensive, their new found love for books and stories of solidarity with other women in the community – one of the members mentions how her neighbor accompanied her to the police station to report her abusive husband.
Meanwhile, mentors from the center for justice and peace (Cepaz), which has given the local NGO fresh impetus by helping out with programs, watch on and smile when Domínguez says: “I know I’m useful, I feel useful, I feel empowered.”
The Cepaz coordinator for the program in the community of La Dolorita, Jany Joplin González, says that the credit belongs to the 600 women who have already benefited from the project.
She says the group members take their vulnerabilities, confront them and decide to “leap forward” with the tools they are provided.
The program organizes human rights workshops, training sessions against gender violence and peace building as well as providing the communities with gardens to encourage camaraderie.
AGAINST THE ODDS
In 2022, at least 236 women were killed in acts of gender violence in Venezuela, according to the NGO Utopix.
Projects like Mujeres Constructoras de Paz are helping communities like the one in La Dolorita overcome challenges and achieve progress, which is no easy feat in a polarized society where the job of caring for the family most often lands squarely on women.
Lilian Blanco is one such person who managed to break down barriers two years ago to become a local councilor.
“Nobody takes away my shine,” she says.
She speaks about gender violence and the silence that surrounds its victims, which includes friends of hers, with the authority of a person who has experienced it up close.
That is why, Blanco says, she leaves the house every morning: not to “do politics”, but to speak to women of all ages to help them engage with their personal development.
Blanco and the other women at the collective have made it a mission to teach others in the community about the importance that women hold in society.EFE