Mar 15, 2024

Yolanda Asks for a Seat at the Table: Empowerment in Action

This post was written by Dr. Tricia Hall for LPGM

In 2018, a high school student named Yolanda embarked on a transformative journey with our partner in Guatemala, CCFC. Like many young women who join us, Yolanda was initially shy and reserved. However, her determination led her to progress through the Women in Agroecology for Leadership Conservation (WALC) program, transitioning from a student to a teacher, and ultimately to an intern. Currently, she is in her third year studying social work at Rafael Landivar University. Having worked closely with Yolanda, I'm confident that she possesses the skills and compassion to excel in her chosen field.

This February, CCFC had the privilege of hosting an American Agro-forestry expert. He shared valuable insights about the practices that our WALC students, teachers, and interns implement to enhance soil quality, preserve essential habitats, and provide nutritious food sources for communities. His global data and plans to establish an Agro-Forestry training center in Central America were particularly enlightening. He was planning to meet with local leaders in Cobán the next day.

At the end of his presentation, he asked for questions. There was a pause (as there often is) and then Yolanda raised her hand, the only person who asked a question.

She boldly asked, “Could some of us come to the meeting tomorrow?” Although initially taken aback, the expert later extended an invitation to three CCFC participants, including Yolanda.

Dressed in stunning, traditional Q’eqchi’ attire, Yolanda returned from the meeting with an infectious smile. She was thrilled to have been part of it and even participated in a hands-on demonstration of an agro-forest.

Yolanda stands proudly on the porch at CCFC. Her confidence shines through.

My visit to CCFC in February also involved launching a community health assessment survey. Yolanda joined our team as a surveyor, eagerly contributing to research ethics training, data-gathering skills, and health education topics. The joy and dedication in her eyes as she engaged with a local villager during the survey were truly inspiring.

Yolanda surveys a woman in Guatemala's central highlands as part of a community health assessment with CCFC.

Before departing, I expressed to Yolanda how proud we are of her proactive engagement and the genuine care she shows for each individual. I also commended her for her courage to voice her thoughts during the Agro-Forestry presentation. Yolanda’s bravery not only earned her a seat at the table, but also exemplified true empowerment. I am grateful for her journey with CCFC and look forward to her continued growth.

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Top photo: Yolanda (left, in black) leads an ornithology (bird) lesson during this year's WALC program.