Assembly Meetings Offer More than Education
As one of two new Development Interns in Adelante’s La Ceiba Headquarters, I recently ventured out to La Masica, Atlántida for my first field visit. As I observed the educational lessons during the assemblies I was reminded of my favorite childhood book, “It Takes a Village” by Jane Cowen-Fletcher. The story follows a young girl as she nervously looks for her brother in their village, and constantly finds him safe and sound in the care of different village members. During the assembly I watched children go from one woman to the next, vying for their attention as they climbed on their laps or stood patiently alongside their chairs, waiting to be given some type of sweet. This caused me to think about how these bi-weekly meetings do not just serve Adelante’s clients, but the relationships between them as well, which has enormously positive implications for a community.
After the formal assembly procedures concluded, a member of the group, Yeisy, told me that one reason she likes the idea of working in solidarity groups is
because it gives the women the opportunity to discuss the issues within their community, which helps them protect their own children and each other’s. Because a large part of Adelante’s program incorporates solidarity groups and the larger assemblies to which groups belong, these women are given a chance to discuss the most recent happenings within their families and communities. This allows for group collaboration on issues as routine as one woman’s home improvement project, as tender as the consolation for a tragic event in someone’s life (like that of Adeline), or as significant as notifying one another of a nearby danger. These discussions, alongside the business education program, equip women with the knowledge they need to continuously improve their lives, both socially and financially. As one client noted, “I think the groups create unity in a community, especially with the educational programs because we’re all learning the same skills and improving our businesses.”
After talking to some of these women it is clear to me that many of them understand the impact that they are having on their communities, as they have successfully taken out loans and improved their family’s economic situation. Their success does not go unnoticed in a community, and soon other women come to Adelante with the hopes of improving their own financial circumstances, and the domino effect is realized. While chatting with me after her assembly, Yeisy confided that she was initially very scared to take out a loan but had no other options, and was convinced to join because of the encouragement from her good friend and current Adelante client, Maria.
Again and again when I asked women about their motivation for joining Adelante they responded with a simple and direct response, “for my children, of course, for their future.” For me, this reinforced what I had already suspected. Adelante is not only providing economic opportunities for women to enable them to begin or grow their businesses and therefore provide for themselves and their families, but it also gives them hope that they can give their children a chance to break the cycle of poverty.
In this way, Adelante’s assemblies provide not only educational business training and economic encouragement, but they create a united front of educated and empowered women within their larger communities.