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SDOP looks to boost women’s empowerment in Panama

Training and community centers bolster economic well-being during the pandemic

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Grants by the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People are designed to boost the economic well-being of Panamanians during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Female empowerment is taking place in Panama thanks to the Chilibre Women’s Training Centers, Gonzalillo Community Organization and Women’s Meeting Space.

The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) has funded a project aimed at making it possible for families to grow food at home to help overcome challenges, including high unemployment, during the pandemic.

“The project consists of the creation of home gardens for consumer food, with a collective vision to support people and communities affected by COVID-19,” mainly women who lead households, Ileana Lopez, coordinator of the project, wrote in a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) questionnaire.

The project — designed to foster knowledge of urban production and boost the capacity of the community to overcome crises — also includes starting an experimental nursery to produce seedlings and installing a community stand.

The idea is not only to feed the growers’ families but to sell surplus food.

“The interest of the participants is to make this process of producing food sustainable,” Lopez said.

SDOP has done continuous monitoring, making it possible to correct course when needed, Lopez said. “It has also given us the opportunity to communicate what we are doing and empower the participants by having support for the initiative.”

SDOP has promoted the project and provided a simple process for receiving funding, Lopez said.

The main groups involved are:

  • Chilibre Women’s Training Centers began in 1995 to train women about domestic violence, personal improvement and how to build self-sustaining projects. Activities include sewing, cooking, cultivating and making products, such as crafts and jewelry.
  • Gonzalillo Community Organization focuses on community protection, sanitation and development.
  • Women’s Meeting Space fights for women’s rights, preventing gender-based violence and developing training experiences for indigenous women and women from poor communities.

Unemployment and the pandemic have hurt the economic stability of people in the area. “They work informal jobs, or they don’t work,” Lopez said. “Most of the women do housework.”

The Panamanian flag. (Photo by Luis Gonzalez via Unsplash)

The gardening project created a bright spot. “Not only did women work in the sowing, but it also became a family space” and seemed to “improve the mental health of many participants very impacted by the COVID-19 virus.”

Once a year, Presbyterians across the country celebrate the ministry of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP). Learn more about the SDOP Sunday celebration, which will occur March 13, by clicking here.

The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Its work is made possible by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing

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