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Our Stories, Our Lives: New Mexico’s Women and Girls
Sarah Ghiorse, Fatima van Hattum and Antoinette Villamil
NewMexicoWomen.Org is thrilled to collaborate with the Green Fire Times on this “Our Lives, Our Stories: New Mexico’s Women and Girls” edition, highlighting organizations, projects and community members working on issues that impact women and girls across New Mexico. The intention is to highlight the nuanced and varied lived experiences of women, girls and the organizations supporting them. As a fund and program of New Mexico Community Foundation dedicated to advancing opportunities for women and girls statewide, part of our role is to amplify the voices of our community partners. Through storytelling we lift our voices, break glass ceilings and shift the dominant gender narratives that surround and shape all of our lives.
The voices and experiences of women are often overlooked or misrepresented. This is even more potent in New Mexico, where half of our female population is comprised of women of color. For example, less than 1 percent of the stories covered on popular news stations are Latina-related, while Latina women have the highest likelihood to be shown partially or fully naked in roles described as “sexy” or “exotic.”[i] What kinds of messages does this send to young women developing their intellect, exploring their sexual expression and seeking role models and validation for their experiences? Wouldn’t it be more effective and empowering to write the stories of our grandmothers, our traditional foods, our experiences with violence, our loving and not-so-loving families, our powerful embodiments of motherhood, our struggles with depression, our dances, our poetry and the ebb and flow of our joys and sorrows? With this issue of GFT, we are seeking to do just that—share stories that matter to us and reflect the realities of our lives rather than a commercialized, fantasy version.
In these pages you’ll read about some of our community partners. Groups like the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, who wrote about their four-day Native Youth Summit, a powerful leadership development experience with a cohort of Native youth leaders ages 12 to 18 from across New Mexico who have been directly affected by domestic and sexual violence. Kalpulli Izkalli describes the wisdom of grandmothers, curanderas, parteras and their work to pass knowledge and traditions to the next generation. Somos un Pueblo Unido shares the story of powerful immigrant women creating committees to organize for improved working conditions. Together they recovered more than $1 million in stolen wages and back pay and fought sexual harassment, discrimination and health and safety violations! In southern New Mexico, Tres Manos Weaving discusses its work to create a successful training and mentoring program for low-income women to thrive in the creative economy as professional artisan weavers. From northern New Mexico, the skillful, compassionate midwives at Breath of My Heart are helping families reclaim traditional birth practices to cultivate a nurturing environment that welcomes all families’ cultural strengths.
In our own voices, the stories of women and girls deserve to be shared and heard. Each contribution describes powerful examples of women and girls’ leadership, creativity, resilience and inspiration. Our experiences are interspersed with victory, adversity, hope and loss. Our struggles as a state also belie small triumphs, big wins and slow changes. We know this collection barely scratches the surface and that many stories are missing. Accept this as a humble beginning to be continued. We will end with a quote from one of our advisory board members, Dr. Patricia Trujillo: “I imagine a New Mexico where women take up more space—where women are professors, farmers, doctors, storytellers, policy makers, artists, leaders, and where we get paid equally for our work. I dream of a New Mexico where girls and women don’t just have choices, but where we are the architects of our own opportunities. Women hold the blueprints for structures yet unimagined, and we are the future of New Mexico.”
Sarah Ghiorse is program director of NewMexicoWomen.Org.
Fatima van Hattum is program manager of NewMexicoWomen.Org.
Antoinette Villamil is program coordinator of NewMexicoWomen.Org
NewMexicoWomen.Org, a program of New Mexico Community Foundation, is the only fund of its kind in the state that advances opportunities for women and girls statewide so that they can lead self-sufficient, healthy and empowered lives. NMW.O works to fulfill its mission via a three-pronged strategy: Educate through research and communications, seeking to bring public attention to issues affecting women and girls with a goal of influencing policy; Lead through facilitating alliances among nonprofits, funders and other sectors in order to concentrate resources, foster collaboration and build capacity; Invest by increasing philanthropic investments in programs serving women and girls through donor education and strategic grant making efforts. The program’s current focus is on health and economic equity for women and girls in underserved, rural and low-income communities and communities of color. NMW.O’s ongoing Take a Stand for New Mexico Women and Girls campaign aims to raise one dollar for each of the 1.04 million New Mexican women and girls. Whether contributors invest one dollar or ten thousand dollars, they are taking a stand to build a foundation of support and improve the lives of women and girls in our state.
New Mexico Community Foundation
New Mexico Community Foundation is a statewide endowment-building and grant-making organization that serves and invests in New Mexico’s communities and their greatest asset—people. As a steward of community resources, NMCF supports a quality of life that reflects the diverse values, traditions, beauty and dreams of New Mexico. Building community wealth and relationships and maximizing community capacity and self-reliance are at the heart of the foundation’s work.
NMCF was started in 1983 by a small group of dedicated, visionary volunteers who believed in the power of philanthropy as a tool for inspiring creative, community-based change and prosperity. With their own donations and a passion for New Mexico, they launched a dynamic, diverse foundation whose grants, programs and initiatives today touch lives and landscapes statewide.
NMCF’s progressive, grassroots approach empowers community members to collaborate on critical issues by tapping into local resources and discovering the strength in themselves. The foundation connects donors to valuable projects and community issues and works to be responsive to current, and often urgent, community needs. NMCF pools resources to support New Mexico’s most underserved communities, strengthens New Mexico’s nonprofits and grows philanthropy, especially in rural New Mexico. Its motto: Together, We Thrive! To join the foundation, call 505.820.6860 or visit www.nmcf.org
Excerpts from Las Mujeres Hablan: The Women Speak
Women’s Declaration for New Mexico 2010, 2014
The Earth community stands at a defining moment in time. Injustices, poverty, ignorance, corruption, crime and violence have deepened and our Earth Mother is suffering. These offenses have led to values that have become hurtful and a destructive way of living.
We believe that women are sacred, unique human beings of the Earth. We believe that female and male energy is found within the other. We believe that all people belong to one earth community as a human family.
We, therefore, declare the following:
1. Whereas, women are the nurturers of the human seed within their wombs and bearers of the blessing of creation through the process of giving birth,
2. Whereas, because of the profound role of women in creation, ancient cultures and civilizations throughout human history and today have revered the earth as our Mother, the source of all life,
3. Whereas, mothers and grandmothers continue to be the primary caregivers of children through breastfeeding, feeding, and nurturing, from infancy through all the stages of our human lives, . . .
Be it resolved;
1. That we are gathered to declare our reverence for our women ancestors that nurtured generation upon generation so that we could be given the blessing of life,
2. Be it further resolved that we will collectively and intentionally work to carry on the seed-saving, farming and ranching traditions of our ancestors and to pass these teachings on to the younger generations,
3. Be it further resolved that we will raise our children to be conscious human beings mindful of the sacred gift of life we have been granted by the creator, to be reverent of our Mother Earth, and to be respectful in their relations …
Mission: Las Mujeres Hablan (The Women Speak) is an Indigenous and land-based, women-led network that creates connections between women in New Mexico to protect our people, traditional knowledge and sacred places. We believe the truth that all life is inherently interconnected with Mother Earth.
The foundation of Las Mujeres Hablan is the women-led organizations Honor Our Pueblo Existence, New Mexico Acequia Association and Tewa Women United, later followed by ally organizations.
To read the complete declaration and learn more about Las Mujeres Hablan, visit www.facebook.com/lasmujereshablan.nm
About the author
The Green Fire Times is published by Skip Whitson, edited by Seth Roffman with design by Anna Hansen, webmaster Karen Shepherd and Breaking News editor Stephen Klinger. All authors retain all copyrights. If you need to contact a particular author, or want to write for us, please be in touch.
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