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Lideres Campesinas, Pomona, California

Community Organizing and Leadership Development

Incorporated in 1997, the mission of Lideres Campesinas is to develop the leadership skills of Latina farmworkers so that they can become catalysts for social, political and economic change and be able to advance human rights. Lideres Campesinas works to improve the dismal and dangerous working conditions of Latina farmworkers in the fields and
packing houses and conducts education on issues such as pesticides, domestic violence, sexual harassment and assault, HIV/AIDS and other health issues.

Lideres Campesinas has created a grassroots, gendered leadership model based on collectivist or cooperative leadership principles. As noted by ethnographer, Maylei Blackwell,113 Lideres Campesinas' concepts of leadership center on both individual and community empowerment. Lideres Campesinas employs a radical or transformative learning approach where the process of learning and the acquisition of knowledge plays a central role in collective action and empowerment.

Lideres Campesinas helps women to demystify the notion of leadership and works to promote empowerment, assisting women to recognize and further develop their own leadership skills in service to themselves, their families and communities. At a house meeting for example, a Lideres Campesina worker may ask, Who here considers themselves a leader? Few if any hands are normally raised. However that changes when the worker asks who has organized a quinceañera (similar to a very large sweet sixteen party). A discussion ensues about the many specific leadership skills women employed to organize a quinceañera and other family, church or community events, helping women to recognize and celebrate their intrinsic leadership skills.

Members continue to develop their capacity, skills and knowledge through education programs on topics such as domestic violence and immigrant rights. The learning is then shared by the women through the process of teaching other community members, organizing campaigns and training service providers to be more effective in working with campesinas. Other popular education techniques used include participatory action theater, consisting of skits or dramatizations about issues impacting campesinas.

For more information visit www.liderescampesinas.org.