By Martha Krzyzewski
Graduate Student, Grand Valley State University
Semillas is a Spanish word meaning seeds. A small group of Mexican women chose this word to describe their nonprofit philanthropic organization because just as seeds grow and produce fruit, the women also wanted their projects they support to grow and produce positive changes for women and girls (Semillas).
The mission of Semillas is women’s empowerment through resource mobilization. Resource mobilization means that women are taught to use their skills and talents to make their lives better (ibid.). Semillas is an organization that believes that empowering women, or giving them the confidence and the education to make their lives and communities better, is important. Through resource mobilization, Semillas is able to provide money to fund projects, like keeping women safe from violence and protecting the human rights of women and girls.
There are four areas of importance that Semillas uses when deciding what types of projects to fund including women’s human rights, economic autonomy, the sexual health of young women, and communicating the human rights to all women despite their level of education. These points crystallize the plight facing Mexican women and all females worldwide. Semillas is making is possible for all women to make a difference in their communities. Women are becoming active agents in social change. The trend of leadership is changing from men to include women (ibid.).
Semillas full name is Sociedad Mexicana pro Derechos de la Mujer, A.C., in Spanish translated as Mexican Society for Women’s Rights. In 1990, Semillas was founded by a group of Mexican feminists. It is the only foundation of women in 22 states in the Republic of Mexico (ibid.).
Semillas works with women who are poor and connects them with the resources to improve their lives and their communities. Semillas focuses on marginal (poor, indigenous, campesina) and marginalized (lesbians and sex workers) women, often without access to basic resources, but who have the ability to solve their own problems (ibid.).
Semillas is unique to the nonprofit community because it consists of women based in and native to Mexico. Semillas is a philanthropic organization that wants to be a leader in women’s issues in Mexico, understanding the necessity of financial security for sustainable projects and programs. A strong Mexican donor base demonstrates Semillas’ commitment to the development of Mexican philanthropy as an achievable goal. Semillas’ institutional development process is model for women’s organizations as well as the nonprofit community (ibid.). More grant makers around the world are realizing the importance of funding women and girls, “social change philanthropy are pearls of wisdom for all grant makers, emphasizing a holistic, sustainable approach to improving the lives of women and girls, now and well into the future” (Weinstone 2004,1).
Semillas makes it possible for poor and indigenous women of Mexico to have a way to address concerns in their communities including violence against women, limited educational resources and limited knowledge of their human rights. This is done through training and one-on-one sessions. Semillas has supported projects and organizations throughout Mexico; in the States of Mexico, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Chiapas and Chihuahua. Examples of this support have been in funds provided to initiatives of indigenous women who live in impoverished rural and urban areas (ibid.).
By providing funding, Semillas is making it possible for women to make a collective effort to make their projects sustainable and long lasting. Program evaluations have shown that women can change patterns of subordination and discrimination through collective efforts. Women are learning that because they are working together, they are achieving more and as a result the movement is spreading. “Since 1990, Semillas’ grant making has supported 68 organizations and 95 projects in 18 Mexican states” (ibid.). What women are learning is that by working together, they are achieving more and the movement is spreading. Since 1990, “Semillas’ grant making has supported 68 organizations and 95 projects in 18 Mexican states” (ibid.). Semillas is very strategic in their grant making. Their efforts are motivated by making long lasting changes. It is important to continue to provide funds for small projects while at the same time working to expand the movement and reach more women (ibid.).
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
The founder of Semillas, Lucero Gonzalez, understands the importance of getting women of all economic and educational backgrounds involved in philanthropy. She has worked to change the cultural stigma that philanthropy and charity are synonymous. Mexican philanthropy has been defined as charity and Semillas wants to change this social stigma. Semillas wants philanthropy to be seen as a social commitment where everyone contributes and benefits. Semillas wants to create a new vision for the people of Mexico and how they view philanthropy. They want to create the idea that time, talent, work and money are all part of philanthropy (ibid.).
“A recent survey in Mexico (1999, Bruno Newman and Associates) reported that only 3% of all Mexican philanthropic funds are directed to women” (Semillas). As Semillas works to change this statistic, financial resources will increase, human resources will be valued, and skills and expertise will be matched to projects in a way that all participants are equally involved (ibid.).
Funding and supporting organizations that focus on girls and whose programs address the entirety of their lives is an important paradigm for social change philanthropy (Weinstone 2004). Semillas is an organization that sees the important benefit in encouraging women and girls to develop and use their talents and gifts. Women’s issues cannot be politically ignored when made known through mobilization efforts. Semillas’ ‘financial spark’ can ignite the fire that creates the visibility, bridging the gap between systemic change to benefit women and philanthropy with a gender focus (Semillas).
Key Related Ideas
Economic self-sufficiency refers to Individuals who identify their strengths, goals and values to achieve their greatest potential in meeting all basic needs. This is often achieved through employment opportunities and support services (Children’s Services Network 2004).
Women’s empowerment is developing the skills, knowledge and resources of women and girls to better themselves and their communities. It is difficult to measure the impact that empowerment makes. It is known, however that women are strengthened when they participate in organized collective efforts (ibid.).
Communicating the importance and knowledge of human rights is a major part of the work Semillas does. Human rights are the freedoms we have to live life. Projects that Semillas fund, such as protecting women against violence and teaching women about their reproductive rights are examples of human rights (ibid.).
Important People Related to the Topic
- Emilienne De Leon Aulina: De Leon Aulina is the executive director of Semillas. Emilenne has worked since 1990 as a consultant for nonprofit governmental organizations and other women related work (ibid.).
- Marta Lamas: Lamas is the Treasurer for the Semillas board of directors. She is an anthropologist and a journalist. Since 1971, Marta has been an important figure in the feminist movement, and is also the founder and director of a group that supports the reproductive rights of women. (ibid.).
- Berta Maldonado: Maldonado is the president of the board of directors for Semillas and a publicist with her own advertising firm in Mexico City (ibid.).
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- The Global Fund for Women was created because women in all countries wanted to be represented fairly in international development programs. (Global Fund for Women). Diversity is very important in all aspects of the work of an organization. Diversity is highly valued because there is much to learn from different groups of people and therefore different funding resources (Global Fund for Women). (http://www.globalfundforwomen.org).
- The International Network of Women’s Funds (INWF) was established in 1998. It is a unique network in which funders are organized democratically and are linked to the feminist movement (INWF). The mission of the INWF states, we are an international network of independent women’s funds committed to expanding the resources available to women’s rights organizations around the world by providing grants to seed, support and strengthen women’s organizations in our communities (International Network of Women’s Funds). (http://www.inwf.org).
- The Women’s Funding Network was founded in 1985. It is an international organization with over 100 members. Funds are committed to improving the status of women and girls globally and locally. The mission of the Women’s Funding Network states, As a worldwide partnership of women’s funds, donors, and allies committed to social justice, the Women’s Funding Network seeks to ensure that women’s funds are recognized as the ‘investment of choice’ for people who value the full participation of women and girls as key to strong, equitable, and sustainable communities and societies (http://www.wfnet.org).
Related Web Sites
Amnesty International’s Women’s Rights Web site, at http://www.amnestyusa.org/women/index.do, contains information about women’s human rights, actions steps for addressing issues affecting human rights and the latest reports from around the world of women’s human rights issues.
Center for Women’s Global Leadership Web site at http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu, offers advocacy campaign information from around the world; women’s human rights workshops and education resources; and Center publications.
Violence Against Women Online Resources Web site, at http://www.vaw.umn.edu, provides law, criminal justice, advocacy, and social service professionals with up-to-date information on interventions to stop violence against women.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Children’s Services Network. “Economic Self-Sufficiency Partnership (ESP) 2004 Strategic Plan.” 2004. http://www.co.slo.ca.us/CSNbb.nsf/0/4d4a1cc121c47b
4088256b500067aad1/$FILE/ESP%20Strategic%20Plan%202004.pdf. [No longer available]
Semillas. Semillas. Accessed 20 September 2004. http://www.semillas.com.mx.
Weinstone, Ann. “What Girls Need to Grow: Lessons for Social Change Philanthropy.” The Global Fund for Women, Impact Report No.2 The Girls’ Project 2004. http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/resources/publications/impact-report-2.html.
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