Initiatives for Economic Empowerment
UPAVIM’s services and opportunities offer a form of grassroots development that works directly to improve the lives of its employees and area residents. Typically, the women who live in Mezquital, the area where UPAVIM is located, are either stay-at-home mothers or find work as domestic servants, informal vendors, low-wage service workers, or semi-skilled laborers in textile assembly plants. In these jobs, women receive low wages, gain few skills, and have little control over their work environments. These poor job prospects translate into often difficult home lives, in which domestic abuse is common and the surrounding neighborhoods have high levels of crime and gang activity.
UPAVIM, however, gives its employees and area residents a number of opportunities to improve their life prospects and living conditions. As a women’s association, UPAVIM provides an inclusive and democratic participatory structure to its nearly seventy employees. Each of its programs are headed by a council or “concejo” of between 6-12 women that collectively decides the needs and direction of individual programs and the overall focus of UPAVIM. Working in a secure and supportive work environment, the women of UPAVIM develop independence, leadership skills, and administrative knowledge, which provide them unique opportunities for personal empowerment and the ability to achieve economic security for themselves and their families.
Unlike most cooperatives, the core work of UPAVIM is conducted within its own facility at the heart of its community. Its businesses and programs are run by women who come from the community the organization serves. This helps the organization respond directly to the most pressing needs and concerns of area residents in its medical clinic, pharmacy, day care program, library, primary school, and tutoring program. Without UPAVIM, residents would either not have access to these services or they would have services of a poor quality.