Displaying Leadership, Mercedes Becomes President of her Cooperative
The J’Pas Joloviletik Cooperative held their first General Assembly in 2011, and they have since come together each year as they work toward Cooperative accountability, annual work plan development, marketing strategies, and inclusive management and organization of the Cooperative. Every three years, they use this Assembly as an opportunity to elect the new Administrative Council.
As members of the Cooperative, the partners are guaranteed the opportunity to vote for and be selected as representatives.
Mercedes is a 44-year-old Tzotzil mother of five, living in Bayalemó. Mercedes is an artisan, a member of the J’pas Joloviletik Cooperative for almost 10 years. In the 2015 General Assembly, members elected the new council. As a demonstration of Mercedes’ leadership, she was elected as President. Surprised by this vote of confidence, Mercedes attempted to renounce the nomination: surely, she thought, someone else would be a better leader than me.
Women in the small, primarily indigenous communities of rural Chiapas typically do not assume leadership positions. They often say, “It is very hard, we cannot do it, it is a waste of time [to try].” As a result, when women are elected in the Cooperative, they would rather quit their membership of the Cooperative than accept a leadership position.
Since 2008, The Hunger Project has been working to strengthen the leadership skills among the members of the Cooperative in an effort to improve the management and organization. Mercedes has taken an active role in this process, engaging in reflections on the importance of women in development, and the significance of being a woman in an elected, representative position.
Reflecting on her election as President, Mercedes thought about the opportunity later with her family. With the support of her children and husband, Mercedes was encouraged to accept the position and recognize that she is capable of fulfilling the role. Mercedes is now the legal representative of the Administrative Council of the Cooperative for the next three years, elected in an historically democratic process for the Cooperative.
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