Monday, March 12, 2007

La fuerza de las mujeres

Working at the Casa de Niños has been a much needed breath of fresh air. I am surrounded by strong, fun and resourceful women. The organization was founded by 26 women in San Ramon following the war of the 1980s. These women saw a great need in their community and organized...since the 1980s the organization has grown to provide a variety of services. True to it’s original mission, the organization works to help children realize their value and potential. One of the children from their first painting classes, now grown, has won the national painting competition three years in a row and started a painting school in Matagalpa. The Casa de Niños even has a program for the ¨Viejitos¨(old people, in an affectionate way) every 15 days. These are the oldest of the old in community and they get together to sing, dance and do crafts. Every time I see the group I can’t help but smile and chuckle. They even elect a king and queen for the group every year. Next time they meet I am going to try to take a few photos. For now, here are a few other pictures. Above, I am standing in front of the pharmacy which was painted by some of their students.

Doña Margarita is one of the founding members of the organization and runs the pharmacy.She is incredible. Anyone that meets her can sense her strength right away. She has raised 9 children, received only a 2nd grade education, she became politically active leading citizen groups during the revolution and was just elected to be the president of the Casa de Niños. Doña Margarita readily affirms that the organization is run by women...the men working there are only helping out. In a place where women’s and men’s roles are clearly defined (women have babies and take care of them and the house) she is constantly pushing social boundaries.

The other day, Brad stopped by the pharmacy for a visit. We began discussing with Doña Margarita the importance of her new role as president. A young man walks into the pharmacy. Without pausing, Doña Margarita continues explaining that men often think that women are just there to cook, clean and have their babies. She implicates this young man in the conversation by making eye contact. This attitude, she continues, is inexcusable and she has always encouraged young women to have independent identities. In a place where Machismo is often the white elephant in the room, Doña Margarita has no fear directly addressing it. The guy looked uninterested, but at least we know he heard her!

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