Events / News

Published on 17/12/2020

Communities Leading Development (CLD) Project encourages and strengthens women´s participation in community leadership

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The CLD Project is raising awareness among Community Development Council (COCCODE) members and the general community about the importance of representative participation in COCODEs, including positions with decision making roles. CLD´s messaging on the importance and benefits of representative participation in the community leadership structure resulted in a change in the community of El Naranjo, in the municipality of Tajumulco, San Marcos. In July of 2018, the community opted for more representative participation by electing Magdalena, a 21-year-old woman, to become a COCODE committee member.

Magdalena accepted a big challenge, as she would have to face centuries of women´s marginalization in community decision making. In the beginning, fellow male COCODE members did not take Magdalena’s opinions seriously, but as she says, “at least I had a voice”. With CLD´s support, providing technical and administrative formation and inclusive participation awareness, Magdalena gained confidence and the respect of COCODE members. CLD strengthens the work of 204 COCODEs in 5 departments of the Western Highlands, through a formation plan that includes three areas: strengthen community-based organizations, strengthen administrative capacities and project management. Magdalena is one of 297 women who participate in these formation processes and are currently members of COCODEs in their communities.

In May of 2019, the COCODE president of El Naranjo migrated to the US; “the president migrated, like many of my community because there is lack of employment”, said Magdalena. The unexpected resignation was both a challenge and an opportunity that Magdalena would embrace. When the COCODE proposed Magdalena to become the president, and the community agreed, she took an unprecedented step forward accepting the new challenge.  “They (COCODE and community) have accepted me as the president, at first I did not know much but I have been learning”, she said. Magdalena is one of twelve CLD women who have occupied a leadership role as president of their COCODE.

Magdalena is not afraid of speaking her mind anymore, she has assumed a leadership role in overseeing the wellbeing of her community. “There are people who believe that women don’t have a voice or a vote, but we do have a voice we just need courage to show it. Women are strong and the limitation is only in our mind”, she said.

There are many needs in El Naranjo: water, roads, a health center and a cemetery to mention a few. The COCODE led by Magdalena will be in office and work for the next year to try to manage solutions to some of the needs. “I dream of bringing improvements; I have a commitment with my community”, said Magdalena.   

The CLD Project believes that inclusive participation in community development processes helps mitigate migration by providing people with options to stay and work for the development of their home communities. “The hope is for Magdalena to be reelected to a role on the COCODE for another period, as she has done a good job. Magdalena has the opportunity and the challenge to open more opportunities for participation for young people and women in community organization bodies like the COCODE”, said Leonel Ixcoy, CLD´s institutional strengthening coordinator.