Women’s Leadership: An Interview with Zulma Hernandez
Zulma Hernandez on Women’s Leadership
My name is Zulma Hernandez. I’m from the town of Comasagua, in the department of La Libertad. I want to tell you a bit about how I got involved in community organizing. I began in my own community, as a member of the women’s committee, then became coordinator of the women’s group. I was also part of the board, I was the secretary, and little by little, I became more involved as a leader in the community, participating in various activities organized by the community council. Later, in 2001, I was elected president of the Comasagua Women’s Association, made up of several women’s committees from different communities in the area. CRIPDES and CORDES really propelled the organizing efforts. I was president of the women’s association from 2001 to 2006, and I think it was a space for me to get more involved in community organizing work, a place that trained me and formed me to be a leader, but especially allowed me to work with women. Then in 2006, I was chosen to represent Comasagua on the CRIPDES Sur Board of Directors. Because at the time, CRIPDES Sur didn’t have a work team, per se, but rather a board made up of representatives from the different municipalities. So that’s where I started to get more involved in community organizing.
These spaces have allowed me to learn and gain experience in community organizing, but what has really helped me become a leader has been the educational or formative experiences, the trainings I’ve received, etc. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several “diplomados” or certificate programs, I think these kinds of opportunities have helped me a lot as a women leader.
Currently, I’m part of the work team at CRIPDES Sur as the supervisor of a project from Oxfam America called Community Savings and Loans. I’m also the representative for the Grassroots Sistering work area in CRIPDES Sur La Libertad, and I’m also a member of the CRIPDES National Board of Directors.
What inspired you to become a leader? Where did that come from?
I was inspired by my community. Knowing that we had problems there, I wanted to be part of the group that would figure out how to resolve those issues. Also knowing the problems or challenges that women face. Learning about the problems, having the same problems myself, and learning how to resolve the issues and accompany those processes, that is what has inspired me. Working with women is what I like best. The fact that I am a woman, and knowing the situation of women in the communities, is something that motivates me to continue working and accompanying women’s organizational processes in the region with the goal of better development for women in El Salvador.
A little more about the Women’s Leadership Academy “Marianela Garcia Rivas”
The Academy is named after Marianela Garcia, a woman leader in the struggle of the armed conflict. It is a school for different women leaders from the municipalities that make up each CRIPDES region, to teach leadership skills. There are three modules for the first year. The first is for women entrepreneurs; the second for political formation, and the third will focus on social leadership. We hope these three modules strengthen the participants’ leadership skills. Specific topics haven’t yet been discussed, but we hope they’re linked to the needs that the participants express.
The project for 2015 is really a pilot project that will be tested out in two CRIPDES regions: in the town of Tecoluca in San Vicente and in Colón, La Libertad. The proposal for the Academy has been written, and we’re currently in the fundraising phase. We hope that there are good results from the fundraising efforts!