Mujeres en Liderazgo took center stage at its first annual “Night in the Spotlight” December 9, hosted by Pillsbury United Communities Waite House. The Spanish-language women’s leadership program uses an empowerment model to focus on leadership, gender issues, family dynamics, finances, immigration, and other issues. The event included a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres, and refreshments, as well as a brief program in which some of the women presented projects they have been working on, including a documentary that one woman created using skills learned in a media training workshop.
Francisco Segovia, director of Waite House, said that Mujeres Liderazgo began at Casa de Esperanza, which in 2005 hosted a women’s support group. Casa de Esperanza lost funding for the group, so it moved over to Waite House. The first Mujeres en Liderazgo session program began in 2008, with a group of women meeting two Saturdays a month for six months.
Clarification from Alicia Ranney, 12/13/2010: The Mujeres en Liderazgo didn’t begin at Casa de Esperanza. It was actually Latinas Creativas – a womens support group. Latinas Creativas started there and was adopted by Waite House after Casa de Esperanza lost funding. Mujeres en Liderazgo originated completely from Waite House, though evolved from our experience with Latinas Creativas.
After the first group completed the training, they continued their leadership work through a campaign working toward obtaining drivers licenses for immigrants. The women gained leadership skills by organizing an educational campaign, gaining more than 1,000 signatures, speaking with churches, community organizations and community members, and contacting elected officials such as U.S. Congressmember Keith Ellison and Minnesota State Representative Karen Clark. Since then, women in the Mujeres en Liderazgo program as well as graduates have also worked on a campaign to obtain municipal identification cards.
Recently the group has offered advanced training courses such as media training, and local media organizations (including the TC Daily Planet) have assisted with training in speaking with the media, writing, and creating videos. Last spring, Mujeres en Liderazgo was honored along with MIRAc by the National Lawyer’s Guild, which gave them the Social Justice award for their work on The Drivers License Bill, which they proposed and found some success in state committees though it has not reached a floor vote in the legislature.
Jovita Francisco Morales, Rosa Francisco Morales, Alicia Ranney
Jovita Francisco Morales, who is originally from San Francisco del Rio, a small town in Mexico, participated in the women’s support group when it was moved to Waite House. Morales moved from her town as a teenager after NAFTA passed and the economy was wiped out. Many in her town also left in search of work. She lived in Mexico City for a while cleaning houses, and eventually ended up here. In 2007, her father died, and her child was injured in the 35W bridge collapse. The next year, she was in the first group of women who were trained in the Mujeres in Liderazgo program. She said she has learned how to organize, how to speak in public, and how to communicate with lawmakers to get bills passed. Currently she is one of the main campaign organizers for the driver license and municipal campaigns.
Maria Cisneros and Clara Bacho
Maria Cisneros, who also was one of the women who helped start the program, now leads the trainings for the new group on Saturdays. Cisneros said that she believes its important for Latina women to take pride in their community. “It’s been an important experience,” she said.
Another graduate of the program, Silvia Pérez Sánchez, was also in the first class along with Morales. She learned how to put leadership in practice, and went on to become a leader of Mujeres en Acción y Poder (Women in Action and Power) a group based in the Corcoran Neighborhood. Sánchez was honored as one of the 2010 Changemakers by Minnesota Women’s Press. She said her goal is to create leaders to work with the community.
The current group of women taking the leadership training will have their graduation ceremony on December 19. Once they graduate, the women are invited to continue being active in the Drivers License and Municipal ID campaigns.
For more information or to learn how you can support the program, please contact Alicia Ranney, (612) 578 – 8266.