María Magdalena (Mauda) is Social Worker and works at SEDEC-IMECH, Concepcion Chile

What was your first connection with Mission 21 or the Basel Mission?

I started my work as an instructor in personal development Workshops for women who were training to become instructors in violence against women.  When I had over 10 years working on the violence against women programme, the opportunity to apply for a direct Mission 21 scholarship came up. I applied and got the scholarship to study Social Work, thus getting a professional degree that gave me tools to work with women and share all my knowledge.

What have been your contributions to the empowerment of women?

I have been able to replicate everything that I have learnt through all this time with women in different scenarios. In seminars, talks, Workshops, etc. Since 2000 up to today, with the violence against women programme, we have empowered, sensitise and de-normalise violence.

Why do you think the empowerment of women is important in Faith Based Organizations?

The SEDEC-IMECH is an ecumenical institution. The work is focused on highly vulnerable population, so we look for methodological strategies that captivate women who can participate in our Workshops. That´s why is important to maintain a speech about truth, respect and trust, so they can not only stay in the Workshops, but also make a real change in their lives. 80% of the women who participate in our Workshops belong to fundamentalist churches, with sermons for women that speak about subjugation, foolish woman; the Bible taught only by men and in their benefit. In this way, imposing a hegemonic power, making women feel that God is a punishing god.

Our work is slow because the important thing is to get women to realise by themselves that they are being victims of violence, as much as in their homes as in churches.

What are in your experience the main challenges to overcome as an advocacy leader for women’s human rights?

To keep on going with training and sharing knowledge. By this I don`t mean big authors` lectures who can teach new and fascinating methodologies. Our work is based in behaviors that I cannot visualise and that I keep passing on from generation to generation. It is also important to influence in policies, in making female leaders, empowering women, but through self knowledge. For example, if I ask today the women I have around me “Would you take the bread out of your mouth to give it to your daughter and son?”, most likely they would say “Yes!”. But with this answer they are not only taking the bread out, but also their clothing, education, suffering, sorrows. This, that is hard wired in our skin and what they told us means to be a mother, is what, to this day, makes us think about everybody else before myself. The main issue is not only to know that I have the right to live a life without violence, but that “I have to believe it”.

What are the main issues you would like to advocate (or you are already advocating for) in your community in order to fight for women’s human rights and achieve gender justice?

To achieve gender justice and equity. To prevail over patriarchy. We are always searching for strategic methodologies to add women rights issues, to recognise micro-behaviors, the different types of structural violence, gender and masculinities. To work with the CEDAW and learn it as a song, so every topic gets engraved in the subconscious. To influence and impose our rights is a battle that we must win by fighting.

You can find more information about SEDEC-IMECH on their facebook page. Also, you can read some good self-care tips for this pandemic crisis here