Established just one year ago, Mujeres Unidas en Acción in Santa María, Honduras and the women behind the organization have begun building a new corn and frijoles business. Their story demonstrates how international assistance can help jumpstart empowerment for impoverished women.
The 21 women of Mujeres Unidas en Acción are a pretty tight group. Located in the Santa María community in eastern Honduras, everyone works. Everyone sacrifices. And everyone benefits.
"The World Food Program Purchase for Progress effort (P4P) has strengthened us a lot in our family lives as well as in our group life. We are 21 women that are working to improve our livelihoods for our children and families. With the support of UN Women and P4P, we have created this small project. But for us, it's a huge project," said Gladys, the group's president.
There is no one spokeswoman in our July 24 interviews with these women. Gladys is certainly impressive. But each of the association's 21 members takes a turn sharing her experience with us.
The group's women have received training from experts on preventing and responding to domestic violence. They have been trained on organic farming practices as well as on more chemical-intensive agriculture. They would prefer to farm organically, but they do not own the land they farm. They rent a plot from a landowner, and the location can change from year to year. As it takes several years of investment to make a farm organic, they simply can't do it until they have their own piece of land.
Time and again, the women of Mujeres Unidas en Acción point to what a difference the trainings have made in their lives.
Thanks to their determination, hard work, and newfound knowledge, the women of Mujeres Unidas en Acción are "no longer consigned to the kitchen," as they put it. They are building a business for themselves in the fields, growing and selling corn and frijoles.
Many of the members of Mujeres Unidas en Acción have belonged to a co-ed agricultural cooperative called ASAGRO for many years, but this specific group of 21 women came together just one year ago to take advantage of a new initiative of the World Food Program.
The group's progress has been supercharged by support from the World Food Program, the foundation of Nebraska-based farmer and philanthropist Howard G. Buffett, and UN Women.
Now Mujeres Unidas en Acción's economic gains are coming much more quickly than those achieved by their male counterparts in the area. "The men are envious of our progress," Gladys told us.
And their progress is more rapid than what I've seen from meeting with other women's associations around the world.
From Central America, to Africa, to Asia, I've seen women's associations that have no outside support struggle for years -- sometimes decades -- to realize the kind of progress Mujeres Unidas en Acción has achieved in just a few months with assistance from international aid agencies.
Make no mistake: Mujeres Unidas en Acción's success here belongs to these 21 women. But their story is a powerful testament of what we can do to help women like these unlock their potential, fast.