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Laura Morales 1

COFOA Guatemalan Leader Laura Morales Tomas Speaks at an International Women’s Day Event: March 2012

I appreciate the opportunity given to me to share my experiences and challenges, first as a woman and second as a COFOA leader in ongoing training.  In Guatemala, just being a woman is a challenge.  Culturally we are raised to be mothers and housewives and are surrounded by machismo so to do and be something different is very difficult.

I come from a home where I was taught the values of faith and equality, and watched my parents practice good deeds to others regardless of gender, status, or economic situation.  They never sought selfish opportunities to benefit themselves. This played a huge part in developing my conception of what it takes to be a good leader.

My parents taught me that we are all equal by divine right in the eyes of God.  We are all equal and in our family we live under the principles of our Catholic faith.

As a mother I have always wanted my children to have a better future than me. As a girl I was the object of ridicule and discrimination, as many others were and are. But all these obstacles only served to better my character and form the person I am today.

My mother, while not perfect, I admire more than anyone. Like many of us, she is a housewife, community leader, and as she says, busy with the 7 roles and 14 needs that a  mother must fulfill. She is my inspiration to be what I am today and she always worked for the common good.

Before I found myself, I remember leaving it up to others to make decisions for me, accepting the consequences regardless if they were good or bad decisions. It was easier to just go along but finally I began to question it all. The more I kept silent, the more they felt they could tell me to “shut up”. But my principles were there reminding me that I had a voice and a right to speak and to be heard. I then started looking for ways to help and to listen well to others; which is what is unique about organizing with COFOA.

I have had the opportunity to work in my community and see the great needs in my town. As a woman I am convinced that women play a very important role in the decision-making process, whether at home, in school, in society, in politics, in our town and our nation. As women we have been endowed with intuition, the ability to multi-task, a cooperative disposition, empathy for all people, a way to make everyday activities meaningful, the ability to distinguish the important from the trivial, an ability to compromise, and we listen.

These and more are just characteristics of motherhood. Motherhood creates a climate of harmony in which people can develop; it is women who exercise the leadership in their families. So, now I have the opportunity to develop and train as a leader in a different way, without selfishness, without egoism, without picking quarrels or wanting to assert my opinions over those of others, being mindful of arrogant dialogue, reconciling the divided and above all practicing my faith values.

What are these values? Do you believe in God or not? Do you love your family? Do you deeply sympathize with the misery and pain of others? We respond to the call of the needy; that, and many things more.  Because our values are honesty, charity, compassion, and especially the most important of all, the one that women practice even in the face of rejection. And this value is LOVE.

Everyone can be part of the transformation of our municipality, one where the well being of the people becomes the most important thing. I think that living out my faith values in public life can result in the common good of all regardless of religion, culture or economic position. If my environment is good, my loved ones and I will be well.

We cannot live denying the reality of a world rocked by violence, by a total lack of values and especially a lack of attention on the part of our authorities at all levels. As part of COFOA, where we form ourselves as leaders, we learn that we are all capable, that we can reach a life of peace.  And this will happen, if we organize ourselves and we align our efforts to the same purpose.

Let’s set aside selfishness and let us all work together- women and men, Catholics, evangelical, atheists or whatever the religion. Let us organize ourselves. I invite each of us to reflect where we are in this moment and what we want for the future, dream that our children have a better future. That they can live without worry about violence; that around the next corner they will not find drug dealers; that harassment or sexual violence will be no more; that we will have job options with dignity and recreation options; and that we will be free to practice any religion we want and to live without any discrimination whatever.

I have learned that I can achieve much but that it is through organization. Your opinions are important and I hope that you can achieve your desires. We can make changes in society if we only decide. You will say: what about my children, if only my husband this, my mom and my dad that, my grandfather and my grandmother, my chickens, the dog, the cat. We can always find an excuse. Let’s start at home; there begins the organization. We organize the family to organize ourselves in community.

My challenge is to achieve this and many more things.  Remember that our proposals are very important; that the contribution of each one of us is crucial for change.

Thank you.

Laura Morales Tomas

Líder de COFOA-PICO en San Antonio Aguascalientes, Guatemala.

March 8, 2012

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