The Karen E. Edwards Women's Empowerment Project was established as a tribute to its namesake, a Founding Member of Xela AID's Board of Directors. A social worker for more than three decades, during her lifetime, Karen empowered scores women to take charge of their own lives both in that capacity, and as founder of Toronto-based Cinnamon Toast Dignified Housing, a home for women in recovery from addiction. Ms. Edwards co-Founded Xela AID's PEX Educational Scholarship Program, donated funds that secured the land upon which Xela AID's Clinic stands, co-led optical clinics for more than a decade and consulted on the overall growth and direction of the project. She passed away in April of 2011, and will be sorely missed. Her important work will continue through this project.
Xela AID recognizes that substantive, lasting change requires that strides are made in gender equity, and in empowering women with the necessary information, skills, resources and confidence to take charge of their own lives. Toward that end, Xela AID has initiated various projects including the following which together function as the Karen E. Edwards Women's Empowerment Project:
INFORMATION - CONFIDENCE
Xela AID has held a number of conferences focused on women's issues. Among the more than 400 who have attended have been midwives, weavers, traditional healers, and those involved in church groups. As a requirement of attendance, each woman selected has agreed to share what she had learned in a group setting with other women within a month of each conference.
Conferences hosted the women off-site with expert speakers on topics that have included:
• Thwarting Domestic Violence
• Social Services Available to Women
• Knowing Your Legal Rights
• Legal Resources for Women
• Family Planning
SKILLS - RESOURCES Literacy - Xela AID continues to sponsor literacy training for adult women. Women who, formerly, were homebound because they could not read a simple street sign and otherwise compromised and marginalized have liberated themselves with the help of the training.
Cooperatives - In the mid-1990s, Xela AID assisted in the formation of both a weavers and midwives cooperative. The organization invested more than $5,000 in training for the two organizations, spanning sewing techniques to common signs of a high-risk pregnancy. The weaving cooperative has become an important contributor to weavers' income, augmenting it up to 30% in some years. Midwives make a modest living in Guatemala, but the training and instruments of the trade afforded participants in training seminars have assisted these midwives to improve their skills and gain confidence. Women who can support themselves and their families are women who have choices and are empowered.
Family Planning - Xela AID's family planning efforts continue daily through counseling and discrete support at its June Russel-Glennon Clinic. Women who have control of their bodies can begin to have control of their lives.
Xela AID aims to continue to expand this important project as resources become available. To support the very special work of the Karen E. Edwards Women's Empowerment Project, please click here; make a general donation, then send a short follow-up email specifying the application of your donation to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Karen E. Edwards Women's Empowerment Project. PLEASE specify your name, date and the amount of your donation. Thank you!