A Conversation with Voces Vitales Honduras
This month I had the opportunity to chat with Cecilia Martínez, Executive Director of Voces Vitales Honduras and with Sofía Pereira, Mentorship Program Coordinator of the same organization, to offer help in the name of Buen Día Honduras. Here is what I learned about this valuable organization whose slogan on social media #MujeresTransformandoHonduras (Women Transforming Honduras).
What is the origin of Voces Vitales Honduras?
Vital Voices came about in Washington DC in 1997, stemming from the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative established by the former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and also by the then Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Vital Voices recruits women from around the globe who are creating change in economic, political and social spheres within their communities. During one of these recruitment events, Vital Voices invited Maria Pacheco, a leader from Guatemala, who had worked extensively with women in rural areas in Guatemala and also possessed the ability to network with people in government and in the media. Following her visit to Washington she decides to take the methodology she learned with Vital Voices to her home country. She opens the first country chapter of Voces Vitales, through which she creates a mentorship program with a community of women who worked with petate (palm leaves). Thanks to this initiative, a local producer of premium rums now purchases the petate it uses to decorate the bottles of rum directly from this community, foregoing the necessity to import the material. This has meant a drastic change in lifestyle for this community of enterprising women. Stemming from this success and with the consent of Vital Voices in Washington, Maria Pacheco takes it upon herself to invite leaders from the region to create the various chapters of Voces Vitales in their own countries. Through the Central American Leadership Initiative (CALI), Regina Wong is invited to create Voces Vitales in Honduras as a project for this country. Voces Vitales Honduras launches in August of 2011.
What can Buen Día Honduras do to help?
Publish information on the various events we hold year-round. One is the Mentoring Walk in March which is done in honor of International Women’s Day. We will hold an event in May in San Pedro Sula which will be a sort of forum or talk. In August we celebrate our anniversary with a forum here in Tegucigalpa. These are events which are organized to benefit small-business owner women, but they are open to women who are professionals, executives, entrepreneurs who want to be motivated, be empowered and who want to get to know a few leadership techniques and put them into good practice.
We have 182 trainees who have participated with hand-made products, artisanal products, industry, and services, among others. We want people to get to know them, to find that the product or service these trainees offer is good and that we should support them because they are Honduran enterprises. It is easy to promote Honduran products, but having someone actually purchase and look for it is hard. You have to be brave enough to buy products made in Honduras and be able to say: «Wow, this is good; it tastes good. I’m going purchase this, I will try it and I will switch.»
One of the greatest challenges is to instill volunteerism in people. Since being a mentor for Voces Vitales is 100% a volunteer initiative, the more people find out about it, the better.
How strong are ties with Vital Voices Washington y Voces Vitales in Honduras? Is there a mentorship relationship coming from VV Washington towards the local chapter?
There is a good relationship and we get together at least once a year, all of the chapters, in order to try to work together. Vital Voices is still focused on recruiting people all over the world. Currently they have a program called VV Grow. It is a mentorship and training program. We have a mentor and trainee participating from Voces Vitales Honduras: Diana and her trainee Celia Durón. The program is specific for entrepreneurs and is regional. I (Cecilia) will begin a training program called VV Lead which is for people who have been creating change in their communities.
The difference between Voces Vitales in the latinamerican region and Vital Voices Washington is that we focus on economic development, while they tend to the three branches (economic, political and social). For this reason we sometimes do not hear about certain programs because they are directed at regions like Africa and the Middle East.
This year we hope to be able to work at the regional level, since we (the executive directors from each country) know each other well. We have presented a few proposals in collaboration.
What are some of the organization’s goals for this year?
We would like 100 more women to join. We would like to encourage a better commitment from our participants and to help them understand the value of belonging to a network. We would like to strengthen the network and the benefits we can offer. We want to see about entering rural areas because we are already present in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula y Comayagua. Perhaps not with such rigorous programs as in the cities, but we would like to grow with a good structure as its backdrop.