The Cunduacán Program to Coordinate Attention to Women’s Issues was initiated by the President of the municipality. He asked his government examine the status of women in the city. During the Mayor’s campaign, he collaborated with large numbers of women’s groups to draw attention to their demands and to gain support of women voters.
Program operation relies on a structure approved by the legislative authority, which is based on analyses of the needs and difficulties of women living in Cunduacán. innovators in the municipal government accepted suggestions about how to structure program activities to meet the challenges facing its women residents. An important part of the program is the empowerment of its beneficiaries; thus, many of the program’s projects involve allocating resources to encourage citizen initatives for local development. Currently, this Program is primarily run by women in a network of local government and civil organizations to address the needs of the municipality from the standpoint of gender awareness.
The target areas identified by the women for project development were legal rights, psychological wellbeing, and capacity building for women. In the area of legal reform, innovators established funds to defend the rights of women in courts. Similarly, in the area of education and social promotion, program innovators began to consider how to train women to participate more actively in Cunduacán’s development agenda. By offering financial support to women-owned micro-enterprises, Cunduacán is increasing the self-esteem and social standing of women in the muncipality while promoting poverty alleviation at the community level.
The program depends not only on municipal funds, but also on outside money and on networks of available civil resources to conduct its initiatives. These include civil society groups such as the National Institute of Social Development (INDESOL), dedicated to reducing conditions of marginalization and poverty, and CESEM, an organization that supports local democratic development in Mexico. Cunduacán’s gender initiatives handle up to fifteen proposals by women per day, with projects ranging from savings banks to tilapia (a white fish) farming.
This networking approach allows the program to give direct, customized assistance to women in need without relying on the high degree of bureaucracy that generally characterizes municipal government procedures. Thus far, over 60% of the assistance offered has been given to rural women with minimal resources and little educational background. Because the program is currently primarily in the hands of women, its efforts also generate confidence and empathy between service providers and beneficiaries.
This program has been responsible not only for increasing incomes for the marginzalized and disenfranchised in Cunduacán, but also for generating a feeling of citizenship and self-esteem among women in the municipality.