Noy Villalobos is the Chief of Party for the CONVIVE! program in Honduras. In honor of International Women’s Day 2014, we asked for her thoughts on women in her country and her profession, and what inspires her.
Question: Please explain in what ways your program involves women.
Answer: Simply put, our program would fail without women. Women in the communities we serve are the glue that binds them. The program is promoting the adoption of non-traditional roles for women and emboldening them to become decision-makers. Women as heads of schools, patronato representatives, directors of health posts, church leaders, and members of the police, among many others, are at the vanguard in combating violence at the local level, restoring communities’ sense of normalcy, pride and dignity. Our program recognizes their immense potential, talent and resourcefulness to serve as community mobilizers and build the relationships with government institutions to benefit their development and safety.
Q: As a woman, what is it like to work on these issues?
A: Working on these issues is a remarkable opportunity and an exciting challenge. Leading a team to improve and strengthen the male-dominated security sector through the exploration of new approaches and non-traditional tactics to reduce violence is at times an uphill battle. It requires determination, passion and continued evaluation, assessment and re-direction. The methods used in the past have not proven to be the most efficient or productive, but combined with new ideas, or innovative approaches, we are having a positive effect. In driving these ideas forward, as a woman, I make a conscious effort to be sensitive to the direct and indirect impact of these actions on families and especially women, who are more frequently becoming victims of violence in Honduras.
Q: What is it like to be a woman in the country you work in?
A: To be a woman in Honduras is not easy. They are victims of and perpetrators of multiple types and patterns of violence. Femicides in Honduras, for example, are on an upward trend. Approximately 60% of households in Honduras are headed by women. The responsibility that comes with that figure is immense. This means women are not only responsible for fulfilling economic responsibilities, they also have to fill other traditional family and social roles. Because of the high level of insecurity in the country, women’s mobility is restricted, making it increasingly difficult to generate income, access education, and fulfill their many duties.
Q: The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Inspiring Change.” What changes have you helped make possible that you are proud of?
A: I am mostly proud of the fact that my program can give a voice to those who traditionally are not heard. In this context, this program evens the playing field. By working with informal groups and giving them the resources, training, technical skills and support to implement their ideas and programs, women have been able to transform their role in community development and security initiatives, from participant to leader and decision-maker. The risks and exposure associated is higher, but so are the rewards.
Q: Who or what inspires you to keep pushing for positive change?
A: Seeing women, on my staff and in the communities where we work, who are willing to risk so much to improve the security and safety of their community/country, and who despite the obstacles persevere, is inspiring and gives me hope. They are the fuel that keeps me going; I wake up every day thankful for what I have and what I don’t have, and I have the incredible luxury and opportunity to contribute to making a real difference. At a minimum I strive to meet their expectations of me and of the change we envision together. Ideally, my resolve will strengthen theirs and make that change possible.