Empowering Honduran Women to Empower Each Other: “Leaning in” to Equality
The National Congress of Honduras recently passed new legislation promoting equal pay for men and women performing equal work. Since the mid-nineties, Honduran leaders have signed into effect laws to encourage gender equality, including the Domestic Violence Act and the Equal Opportunities for Women Act. These, along with the newest equal pay law, are crucial to protect women’s rights.
On paper, this shows great progress. Yet, many doubt employers will implement or enforce the law in the everyday Honduran workforce. “The promise of equality is not the same as true equality,” writes Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In her book, Sandberg addresses many of the issues in the US that are holding women back and keeping men at the top. In Honduras, women experience far greater struggles, which have been magnified by the culture of machismo.
Machismo, or male-dominated culture, is still prevalent in Honduras in all aspects of life. Here, as in most other majority-world nations,women are expected to fulfill domestic roles while men are deemed the main income earners, landowners, and financial decision makers. Women are hurled into poverty when, as frequently happens, men migrate or leave them for other women. Often women themselves perpetuate their lower economic and social status because they have been told time and again that they have no power or worth.
However, women can and do break these harmful norms. We see this regularly with Adelante’s model. When a woman joins a solidarity group with Adelante, the new support system helps to shift her feelings of inadequacy to self-confidence. With women as role models for each other, their children, and their communities, newfound self-worth can influence the next generation of women to step up to positions of leadership.
Although the new law is a powerful symbol for women’s rights, equity laws alone do not have significant change in gender equality. Real progress requires women leadership to alter gender bias and obliterate machismo. When we empower women to empower each other, together we take the first crucial step forward towards equality.