Alabama Honduras Medical Educational Network
How can you help?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Communication and Individualized Planning

I started off the last blog post talking about how much communication means to me.  We all look at things just a bit differently...which is great...I get tired of talking to myself all the time!  When people disagree with a blog post, I don't get mad.  I'm just glad people are reading! I am even happier that people feel comfortable enough to respond.

In my most-recent post I talked about why our mission more frequently engages women than men. The reasons I gave were fairly simple, and I summarize them as follows:

1.) There are more opportunities for men than women to join the paid economy in Honduras.  As a result, men are more often unavailable to attend clinics/seminars
2.) Because of greater opportunities for men as paid employees, men have greater access to regular nutrition and medical care and so may have lesser need for our clinics/seminars.
3.) Due to an imbalance of power between men and women in Honduras there are high rates of violence against and murders of women

I attempted to write about these three issues in a way as to not alienate my audience. I used two examples of women without loving and providing men in their lives to highlight particular and, quite frankly, very common examples. I did so acknowledging that we know of a mountain of men who function quite to the contrary. In writing the last post I aimed to help us do our jobs better by highlighting the fact that many of the issues we are trying to overcome can be linked to machismo in government, business, and the home. I still maintain this to be true. 

One of the finest examples of male leadership

Why I'm writing today is in response to a comment by CHIMES' own Bud McKinney. You may know him better as “The Pirate” or that guy who always seems to be in Honduras when your're there! I know him as a friend. Bud knows one of my main goals in blogging and in mission work in general is to maximize our positive impact. He knows I want us all to do our jobs better so that we encourage real change sooner rather than later. So I was overjoyed when Bud wrote to me and said:

      “On our last team to Limonales, we made sure to expressly stipulate on the radio that men would be welcomed and would be treated first so they could get back to work quickly and the turn out was large. And when you see a block building remember that men built that, and while they were building that they missed the clinic.”

What a simple solution to a complex problem! It never occurred to me that increased opportunity in one part of life could limit opportunity in another.  Communication wins again!  Honduran men, like men in many parts of the world, have greater opportunity to go out and work for pay than do their female counterparts. The pleasure of earning precious Lempiras for their families, however, limits male access to many of the services we provide as missionaries. 

The AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative helps Honduran communities overcome those overlapping issues limiting self-determination.

If our goal is to serve an entire community, then, we have to shape our mission work in such a way as to be available for the whole community. In other words, we have to be aware of how opportunity and wellness go hand-in-hand. The value of plain and simple preparation cannot go underestimated.

We also cannot essentialize the extremely complex situations we encounter.  I look at things from a gender perspective, but it is not the only lens from which to see reality. Hondurans will have a particular and valid point of view.  Each team sees things differently, and it takes a village of viewpoints to imagine the most effective solutions. 
If we all work together to etch away at our particular area of focus, eventually the masterpiece of a brighter future for more Hondurans will be born.  As volunteers, let's continue to focus our attention on maximizing our own opportunity to make a positive impact in Honduras, and let's also prioritize increasing the opportunities available to ALL Hondurans! 

Together, we are the difference.

Friday, August 10, 2012

¿Feminista o Mujerista?: AHMEN Investing in Women

Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in every society. Women lack access to decent work and face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps. They are too often denied access to basic education and health care. Women in all parts of the world suffer violence and discrimination. They are under-represented in political and economic decision-making processes.

I always love reading comments on the blog. Some contain words of encouragement, and some are reflections on AHMEN as an organization. Others, like the one left on a post from a few weeks back, pertain directly to serious issues at hand. After reading “Mariposa'sMiracle” an individual posed the question “Where were the adult males?”

Answering this question is tricky. We asked this same question back in 1999 when AHMEN's first medical clinics were filled with women and children of all ages but very few men. On the “De La Montaña Al Mar” team we noticed the same lack of male presence everywhere we went. In the hotels where we stayed, in the restaurants where we ate, in the clinics and classrooms, etc. Many say the men are off working in the fields. Some say they are out drinking. Many work abroad; even still, many are trapped in the growing illegal drug trade devastating Honduras. There is probably no single answer as to where the Catrachos are except....not with the women!

While visiting Telares El Cacao the “De La Montaña Al Mar” team met a group of women running a sewing business in the mountains above La Esperanza. When we asked the women working whether men wanted to sew also, they told us that they couldn't rely on men to provide for them or work for them. “Men prefer to work in the fields, but they don't like to share their earnings.” In order to care for their families, these women started and have successfully managed a business.

Telares El Cacao

While visiting the La Ceiba Dump to share Ezekiel Nichols' plans to establish a series of microenterprises there, the vast majority of individuals we came in contact with were female. Ezekiel did not send us to find groups of women to form the basis of the Dump cooperative. It's just that no adult males came around to see what we were doing there. Now there are 30 women working to set up their own small businesses and work their way out of poverty.

The Beginning of Something Great

I would like to act like the visible absence of males in Honduran females' lives is some complicated issue, but the fact remains that machismo, or a very public show of a sexist masculinity, runs rampant throughout Honduran society. Chauvinism characterizes most societies. AHMEN and other volunteer groups in Honduras, however, must pay serious attention when this über-masculinity is coupled with one of the highest rates of femicide in the world. What we have been noticing … what we see everywhere we go … shapes our mission.

Women Protesting During the Political Instability of 2009

If you are thinking that this liberal Christian ecofeminist is trying to brainwash you, just think about the projects in Honduras most near and dear to your heart. We know some really genuine, very loving and giving Hondureños, but las mujeres are holding the country's seams together. AHMEN aims to help all Hondurans live better lives. Nonetheless, women and children around the world disproportionately suffer from higher rates of poverty, preventable disease, violence, undereducation, and climate change. As an organization working to improve the living conditions of an entire country, then, we must acknowledge that our activism will mostly center around women's issues.

Midwifery Classes in Ciriboya

AHMEN must continue to further the idea that sexual hierarchy has no place in the world's future by actively opening up the empowerment process to Hondureñas.

Mariana and Company
Mariana must be able to realize her dream of nurturing the exceptional population around Plan de Flores.  The ladies of Shalom must be able to fly away out from under Suyapa's wing and begin to provide for future generations of at-risk Catrachas.   The Children of Utila, both the boys and girls, must be able to attend school and learn to build the just future necessary for progress.

Centro Educación Básica República de Honduras in Utila
The thousands of children we all see each time we visit Honduras must know their mothers deserve to be more than just their fathers' punching bags. As AHMEN shapes its advocacy to become more appropriate and effective, we must acknowledge the various ways gender issues permeate our activism.

Contact me today about how to be a part of meaningful change in Honduras.
Together, we are the difference.