ESPERA's Path to Women's Empowerment - Mary's Pence

Women's Stories  |  ESPERA

ESPERA’s Path to Women’s Empowerment

The El Salvador Follow-Up Committee gathered together — 15 women from 7 ESPERA organizations — to discuss the year’s accomplishments, their roles as leaders, and their plans for 2024. The Follow-Up Committee was formed in 2020 after an evaluation of the ESPERA program in 2019. Its goal was to follow up on the recommendations of the study – and the name stuck!

“Witnessing the women’s enthusiasm during the meeting was deeply gratifying. The women were not just participants; they recognized themselves as heroines and leaders, collectively identifying and celebrating their achievements. This positive experience reinforces the commitment of the ESPERA staff to continue empowering women through our program,” said Mabel Martinez, Mary’s Pence ESPERA Regional Team Lead.

The primary goal of the Follow-Up Committee meeting was to reflect on the progress, setbacks, and challenges faced by the organizations throughout 2023. Additionally, the Committee aimed to establish commitments for the new year. The meeting was part of a series of planned gatherings to assess progress and improvement opportunities. Every conclusion and resolution was made exclusively by the ESPERA members, as the ESPERA staff served as a facilitator of the conversations.

Part of the commitments that the leaders of the ESPERA partner organizations identified as needed for their organizations are to fulfill the agreements signed with Mary’s Pence, continue strengthening the Follow-Up Committee, create more teamwork within their groups, forge alliances with other organizations within their municipalities, and execute their Annual Operational Plans (POA).

The Mary’s Pence staff that make up the ESPERA Regional Team described the atmosphere as highly productive. The participants exhibited enthusiasm, teamwork, and active engagement. The women reflected and worked on the end-of-the-year evaluations and enjoyed moments of camaraderie and relaxation—a rare experience for them.

The Importance of the Follow-Up Committee

From the perspective of the ESPERA Program, the significance of the Follow-Up Committee lies in fostering greater ownership and empowerment among the participating organizations. This engagement allows the work to evolve according to the practical needs and strategic interests of the women involved. The women expressed awareness of their increased responsibility within the Committee, leading to a renewed plan for 2024 based on their collective reflections and conversations.

“I feel that the gathering was excellent. In one of the workshops, every organization created a timeline with the group’s chronology and achievements. It showed us our history, which was crucial because it helped us better understand the organization’s context, our past, and the journey we have undertaken personally and organizationally. This allowed us to recognize ourselves as heroines of our own story,” said Sonia from La Parroquia.

She added, “We look forward to continuing to meet and hope all commitments and challenges identified in the work sessions are met. We hope to continue strengthening our groups in each of the municipalities where Mary’s Pence is present. Thank you for believing in us and betting on our dreams and projects. We’re ready and happy to be on this journey, hand in hand with Mary’s Pence staff, changing the lives of many women.”

“I enjoyed the collective reflection on the work carried out by each organization during the last couple of years. We evaluated the challenges and achievements of each organization. Also, we could reflect individually. We recognized ourselves for the year’s work and our achievements, which was very uncommon for us since we were used to recognizing the skills and abilities of others. Still, we find it difficult to see the skills we have developed over the years, the main one being the leadership that allows us to lead women’s groups. It was an excellent self-recognition exercise. After all, we often do not demand our rights because we do not recognize our worth,” Iris from San Rafael Cedros reflected.

“Mary’s Pence staff managed to create a beautiful combination of work and recreation for us, taking us out of our daily routines. I appreciate the opportunity to share and talk with other leaders about our lives, as it allows us to vent and reflect on our common problems; this is a medicine for the soul,” Iris added.

The Follow-Up Committee Meeting in Suchitoto was pivotal for women’s empowerment, collaboration, and reflection. As the ESPERA program looks forward to the future, the leaders’ shared commitment and the ESPERA staff’s dedication promise continued growth, learning, and a positive impact on the lives of women in El Salvador.


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