Latin American Women’s Aid (LAWA) is extremely proud to share with its wider audiences our #LAWAChangeMaker toolkit, which reflects the lessons and methodologies implemented through many workshops, meetings, community rituals, and artistic initiatives of hundreds of women that made LAWA their home and shared generously and powerfully their experiences of migration, violence, hope, and self-determination.
The initiative was funded by the National Lottery under the Women Weaving Change project. These resources were a key catalyst for LAWA’s journey from survival to sustainability at a very critical juncture for the organisation in 2015-16
Yenny Tovar, LAWA Executive Director, said: “The legacy of the Women Weaving Change Project, and the unique resource base captured through this toolkit cannot be understated. Year after year, evaluations showed a significant impact on participants’ awareness about gender-based violence and intersectionality, the real impact in their lives through strengthening of community networks, and how this translated into a significant increase in confidence and empowerment as well as their willingness to multiply change. What’s more, the very existence of the programme created the space and the resources to develop a flexible framework of community feminisms and popular education which has both articulated and helped us develop our own standards of institutional practices as a led by and for organisation supporting women from Latin America and other minoritised backgrounds in the UK.”
Jael Garcia, LAWA Change Maker Programmer Coordinator said: “The Change Maker programme proposes a non-hierarchical feminist approach where women are encouraged to co-create activities, learn and grow together. As a coordinator of this programme during five years, I have been a first-hand witness of the journey of transformation and the sisterhood created across different generations of #LAWAChangeMakers. I am extremely proud of what we have achieved collectively, and I am sure that this toolkit is only the start of a much richer and in depth move towards truly unpacking intersectionality and other non-hegemonic feminist frameworks (such as Abya Yala’s communitarian feminism and black radical feminists) to inform and enrich our approach to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls (#VAWG)”
The global pandemic created a lot of challenges for a programme whose core strength was the human connection created through face-to-face interactions. The programme had to re-imagine itself and adapted its approach to the new environment, always finding creative and powerful ways to transmute love, grief, pain and uncertainty into deep and beautiful expressions of collective wellbeing. The video project ‘Our Stories’ –narrating stories of migration and resilience of Brazilian Women in London’ and the ‘Blossoming Tree of women’ – a Collective textile, were two of the most famous collective works that came out of the Change Maker Programme and which we have shared extensively through social media, exhibitions and other opportunities. They have helped us remove the anonymity that we often experience, and have allowed us to create space to pass down wisdom from generation to generation.
Soraya Fernández, one of #LAWAChangeMakers and the main source of inspiration for the collective textile said:
“The Blossoming Tree of Women expressed our collective awareness of the changes we went through during the pandemic. Beginnings and endings are captured in the rebirth process of the blossoming tree of women. Our renewal begins in the dried seeds that we go shedding and that, within the germination cycle, are interwoven in our materialised Blossoming.
This process is symbolic, spiritual, but also cultural. Before, because of the patriarchal and misogynistic culture of our Latin American societies, women were ‘behind’ the curtain, but now, with the changing of roles and the positions that women occupy in public, the curtain has been moved. Now, nothing can silence our voices or our ability to create. In this way, the recycled fabric also symbolises our individual and collective adaptation, transformation, resilience and rebirth”.
We are also deeply grateful to Ms. Claudia López-Prieto and St. Gabriel´s College, in the borough of Lambeth for all her support to carry out the Change Maker Programme “Chavitas”, an adaptation of the programme for girls and young migrant women during four consecutive years. Thanks to all the girls and adolescents of the Latin American migrant community in St. Gabriel´s College that took part in the workshops, and to those that will keep participating in subsequent iterations of this work. LAWA is very grateful and know that the future belongs to them.
In closing, Latin American Women’s Aid would like to offer this toolkit so that is read as the piece of a puzzle that will help you understand and value how black and minoritised women build knowledge together. The labour of sharing and creating communities of trust, care and collective healing never stops, and for this reason, we would especially want to dedicate this publication to our sisters from other black and minoritised communities in the UK and across the world, who find themselves asking similar questions in their own communities, and across the different intersections of oppression and privilege in which we all live and breathe.
1 The toolkit can be downloaded by following this link: https://lawadv.org.uk/en/lawas-change-maker-toolkit/
2 Among other spaces, the Blossoming Tree of Women was exhibited in the successful “Hues of Crisis” art
exhibition, hosted by the Mexican Embassy in the UK in November- December 2021:
3 The video project ‘Our Stories’ –narrating stories of migration and resilience of Brazilian Women in London can be accessed at: https://youtu.be/iNYFIFvvZYY
4 For more information about the work of M. Claudia Lopez in terms of community advocacy and education please visit her IG profile @la_mslopez