Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama

by Fundacion Calicanto
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Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Fight Poverty: Educate Women in Panama
Capta 63 Graduation
Capta 63 Graduation

Why do we do what we do?

Throughout the world, there is vast evidence to demonstrate the existence of inequality in the labor market that disadvantages women, evidenced by lower conditions of well-being in terms of levels of hierarchy, income, and harassment, among others.

The gender gap is not narrowing, according to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report 2022. The Gender Gap Index analyzes the division of resources and opportunities between men and women in 155 countries. It measures the size of the gap regarding participation in the economy, skilled work, politics, access to education, and life expectancy. At the current rate, it will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap1. As new crises emerge and current ones deepen, women's workforce continues to be affected, and the risk of global gender parity reversing is further intensified.

In the overall index, Latin America and the Caribbean ranks third among all regions, after North America and Europe. The region has closed 72.6% of the gender gap, an increase of almost 0.4 percentage points since the previous edition2. Based on the current rate of progress, it is estimated that Latin America and the Caribbean will close their gender gap in 67 years.

However, Panama is far from being the best example of the region. Although there was an improvement in the global ranking (stepping from position 46 to 40), Panama still maintains a gender gap of 74.3%3. As a result of the pandemic, in 2019, the percentage of economically active women was 10 points below the Latin American average (55%). It decreased another 8 points in 2021 (47.3%), according to reports from the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC). At the local level, the percentage of women participating in employment lost 2 points in those two years, from 42% of the country's labor force to 40%4. Considering that data tends to analyze formal jobs, we can agree that the situation implies much more complexity for those who maintain an unsteady and informal income.

At Fundación Calicanto, we recognize the adversity that the data above reveals. Yet we also focus on identifying and accompanying the strength of all those women who approach our organization to receive training and new learnings, with the hope of prospering personally and economically. In 2022, the percentage of women seeking training to start a business or find a better job has increased significantly. Strength, desire, and commitment cannot be ignored and must be accompanied by education and proper support. Appropriate training is what makes it possible for more and more women to fend for themselves. It is what will help them achieve the life they deserve while also being able to provide a more prosperous future for their families.

An encouraging fact is that, in Panama, 30% of businesses are created by women5. In our training, 98% of the women enrolled come with a business idea or an ongoing business. Only 1% of them arrive with a clear plan or vision they might follow to achieve their goals. At the start of each course, they have yet to have an economic program for their project, mainly because of the uncertainty and economic vulnerability that burden them. Additionally, in the current post-pandemic context, higher levels of education and training will be required for the labor market, especially in a country where more than 40% of jobs have disappeared, and the prospect of recovery is still uncertain.

Our proposal

Our CAPTA training program aims to accompany all women in developing their potential through a comprehensive training proposal that includes psychology topics to improve self-esteem and acquire knowledge, skills, and essential tools to obtain a job or build their businesses. The course has helped me a lot to improve my self-esteem. It has helped us all to improve ourselves and to believe in ourselves, to believe that it is possible¨, said Yamileth during her graduation ceremony for the CAPTA 63 class. Attitude and a genuine feeling that one is capable are essential since women's most significant challenges in this arena are the prejudices and resistance that still exist toward being included with dignity in the work market.

Our program Agentes de Cambio (Agents of Change), dedicated to promoting female empowerment and the eradication of gender-based violence against women, obtains excellent support and commitment from those who join the program from the group of agents each year. These women's groups are a crucial part of our system framework since they can replicate critical messages in their communities and reach places or audiences where the organization has no reach. They are spokespersons for their rights, accompanying other women through their healing and empowerment journeys. They are the light on the path of many women who are still figuring out how to take the first step to escape from the circle of vulnerability that takes hold of them. ¨We are the first support for women who want to get out of the process of violence; we are the shelter for desperate women who want to run away. Thanks to the fact that we are trained to walk along with them, we have become an essential piece for the community¨, says Kennya about her experience as an Agente de Cambio in 2022.

Our commitment is more vital than ever in a global context where numbers are discouraging. We try to tackle this complex problem through different angles and the edges of the problem and focus on guiding and strengthening all those women who show up and say "I can" and those willing to try. We believe in the ripple effect of our work, and we know that it will help reduce the local and global gender gap.



1 World Economic Forum. Global Gender Gap Report (Julio, 2022) .https://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2022/in-full

2 Mujeres 360. Informe Global sobre brecha de género 2022 (Julio, 2022)https://mujeres360.org/publicaciones/wef-informe-global-de-brecha-de-genero-2022/

3 Datos Macro. Indice Global de la brecha de Género (2022)https://datosmacro.expansion.com/demografia/indice-brecha-genero-global

4 Martes Financiero. Mujeres estarían más capacitadas para enfrentar el mercado laboral (Marzo, 2022 )https://www.martesfinanciero.com/voz-calificada/mujeres-estarian-mas-capacitadas-para-enfrentar-el-mercado-laboral/

5 Martes Financiero. Impulsan el emprendimiento femenino en Panamá (Mayo, 2022). https://www.martesfinanciero.com/relieve/impulsan-el-emprendimiento-femenino-en-panama/

Capta 63 student during job interview training
Capta 63 student during job interview training
CAPTA 63 group
CAPTA 63 group
Agentes de Cambio 2022
Agentes de Cambio 2022
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CAPTA graduates meet on March 2022
CAPTA graduates meet on March 2022

I wish you could listen in on one of Calicanto’s Seguimientos calls - our new follow-up process for graduates of CAPTA. Meeting on zoom over a period of six months, graduates respond to impact surveys, participate in games, and reconnect with their cohort. It has been such a privilege to get to know these resilient women through what they share in the small group environment. Some are working diligently to make their business profitable, caring for a sick family member, rebuilding their lives after divorce, or excitedly sending their child off to university. Though virtual, the environment is warm and empathetic with women readily offering words of encouragement or wisdom to each other. “I feel like I am surrounded by family” remarked Yumico, a CAPTA 60 graduate at the end of our most recent call.

The design of the follow-up process hinges on the premise that facilitating environments for graduates to support and affirm each other is a strategic way of reinforcing the empowerment principles learned throughout CAPTA. Along with receiving support from the foundation, you can hear from your friend, perhaps even your neighbor who shares valuable understanding of your struggles, goals, and contexts. Alumni are provided a space to connect with other women doing the same disciplined work of integrating mature conflict resolution, healthy coping mechanisms, and resilience in their day-to-day lives.

Structuring our monitoring and evaluation process in a community-sustaining way creates a pathway for women to grow into community members and leaders. Even if it is just for an hour, a space for graduates to share what is on their minds and provide support for each other, reinforces the psycho, social, and emotional empowerment experienced through CAPTA. It places them in an environment where they are first and foremost people; separating who they are from their circumstances and interrupting internal narratives of victimization. Instead of being just a beneficiary, they are a listening friend. Instead of being at the mercy of their circumstances, they are empowered individuals. Instead of being defined by the countless, limiting labels our society places on women - they have a place of belonging and have something valuable to offer.

 

They are in short, a woman whose voice matters and isn't that what empowerment is all about?

 

For our team, this new process has added much needed structure to the monitoring and evaluation program (Conexiones), greatly reducing their workload while increasing the quality of their interactions with graduates. Our team spends less time trying to track down graduates, and more time building relationships and providing support to alumni. Additionally, there is more clarity on what the Conexiones program actually offers with designated space within each call to communicate the scope of resources available to graduates, share upcoming events, and make an appointment with a psychologist. Our graduates have a clear understanding of what resources are available to them as alumni, increasing the likelihood of long-term involvement in the foundation.

There is no need to overstate the innovation of this new program, it is simply designed and straightforward in application. What makes it special, is that the format meets our alumni’s needs for a greater network of support as they put into practice new life skills. Whether they are experiencing difficulty, seeing success, or working to create positive change in their lives they are not alone. At Calicanto, we are supporting long lasting impact through the fostering of long lasting relationships, one Seguimientos call at a time.

Alumnas connect and exchange ideas
Alumnas connect and exchange ideas
Family members supporting the graduates
Family members supporting the graduates

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Agents of Change alongside the French Ambassador
Agents of Change alongside the French Ambassador

To create greater awareness about the prevention of gender violence, Fundacion Calicanto in collaboration with the French Embassy in Panama carried out a training program for local women.

Within the framework of prevention and education on gender violence, Fundacion Calicanto graduated 15 women selected from the CAPTA Program (Training for Work) to be part of the project 'Agents of Change for the Prevention of Gender Violence', created to train and educate women to make social and behavioral changes on other women, men and adolescents in their communities.

As a result of the project, the 15 women selected received their official certifications last December on behalf of Fundacion Calicanto and the French Embassy in Panama, as they were able to impact more than 200 adolescents with the realization of awareness workshops on equity and equal rights, so that each one could acquire the tools and the necessary knowledge to improve their personal and professional development. In addition, the training of the adolescents included workshops on the application of equal rights and the prevention of gender violence.

The women selected are already part of the foundation's internal network, because they had initially complied with the CAPTA Program, that introduces them to psychosocial and personal entrepreneurship development components, which according to the president of the foundation: “The program allows women get and keep a formal job, since we cannot speak of empowered women if they are not able to acquire their own resources.

Regarding the leadership of the "Agents of Change", the president emphasized that they describe themselves as women who "know what their communities need" and have the knowledge and tools necessary to "impact the inhabitants in favor of a possible positive change.”

From the agents perspective

According to statistics from the Panamanian Observatory against Gender Violence, from 2014 to July 2021 there have been more than 130 thousand 760 complaints of domestic violence, 89 thousand 271 (68.27%) in the First Judicial District, formed by the provinces of Panama, Colón, Darién and the Guna Yala region. While in October 2021 there were 17 femicides, 12 attempted femicides and 16 violent deaths of women, according to an official report of the Attorney General's Office (PGN).

Knowing this aspect of the Panamanian reality resonated with Eldemira, an agent of change who graduated from the program and has a degree in social work, who pointed out the importance of maintaining and increasing the support for projects that seek "better training for women."

"I am motivated by the program because it is an open door to provide information to people, in order to stop the increase in violence, and to expand the message that people should not remain only victims, but transform themselves," she said.

On the other hand, the agent Ana pointed out that "it is not necessary to have suffered from violence to be able to help others who have," and emphasized the high receptivity of young people. "We were able to help many young people because they too are interested, they just need someone who is willing to explain and teach them about how to prevent violence in their contexts."

Ana, Genesis and Eldemira celebrate the program
Ana, Genesis and Eldemira celebrate the program
Margarita sharing her story
Margarita sharing her story
Agents celebrate the program's success
Agents celebrate the program's success

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Graduates of CAPTA 58
Graduates of CAPTA 58

Through the course of the year, our personal and professional/vocational training program has been focusing primarily on psychosocial empowerment and economic resilience. Where women in social vulnerability not only have the opportunity to acquire vocational skills, but can also strengthen their entrepreneurial skills to access a certain level of economic autonomy.

Our beneficiaries admit that, to them, entrepreneurship is no more than a fancy description for what many have been doing their whole life by subsisting and sustaining their families through various forms of informal economy. Nonetheless, throughout the evolution of the program adaptation, they have also come to understand that to better provide for themselves (through revived or first-time informal businesses) they must learn and make use of current, more competitive skills. 

The initial design of the program was focused entirely on empowering at-risk women to work in entry level positions. But as is the case globally, the pandemic has further exasperated economic and social inequalities and people already on the margins of society have been pushed even further still. To provide for their families, many women have revived or started informal businesses, selling food, baked goods, and other items in their communities for fast cash turnaround. Our organization became rapidly aware of this need and adapted the program to include digital entrepreneurship, business development and digital marketing.

By embracing e-learning, integrating the program to an online educational platform, and providing direct mobile data, 118 women have received access to emotional, social and technical skill-training to better advance their professional, academic plans and/or bolster their entrepreneurial ideas.

Through four different cohorts ranging from 29 to 33 women each, we supported and assessed their development through five competency categories and strengthen their technical skills while also focusing on supporting their independent projects:

  • Competency 1: Personal identity
  • Competency 2: Emotional skills (psychological and human)
  • Competency 3: Social skills
  • Competency 4: Job skills
  • Competency 5: Vocational and technical skills

Through this year’s adaptation, we not only verified that the program could have the same impact through a virtual format but we also had 30% more demand than the previous years. This could be directly related to the pandemic crisis but it sends us a clear signal about how vulnerable populations have been greatly affected by lockdowns and rapid digitalization. Combined with the additional pressures of providing care in the home which in most cases, has halted their personal and professional development.

Our 2022 looks towards strategically increasing our impact by leveraging from this rapid digitalization while continuing to closely assess our beneficiary’s trajectory to better understand our empowerment model. 

We now face a good problem to address which is being able to meet this increasing demand as more vulnerable women in Panama are drawn to our program to strengthen their abilities and seek economic resilience.

CAPTA online ceremony
CAPTA online ceremony
CAPTA graduates receiving their digital tablet
CAPTA graduates receiving their digital tablet
CAPTA graduate embracing her course completion
CAPTA graduate embracing her course completion
Women of CAPTA 59
Women of CAPTA 59
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Bridging the gap for CAPTA students
Bridging the gap for CAPTA students

Central America has been one of the hardest hit regions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The social and economic circumstances of the public health crisis have amplified the uncertainty for women in Panama where almost 300,000 employment contracts were suspended, of which 43% were for women, and the majority included women of color and minority groups (Mitradel, 2021).This adds to the general context of the LATAM region where it is estimated that close to 12 million women have lost their jobs (OIT, 2021).

During the pandemic crisis we documented that 90% (300 active alumni women) of our self-improvement program (CAPTA) had suffered an increase in their internal and external situations of social vulnerability.  These were causally linked to substantial job losses, halting of in-person education for their children and an increase in mental and physical violence; due to long lockdown periods compounded by unhealthy living conditions. Added that, the women we train are part of the informal economy, suffer mental and physical violence, have almost no formal education and sustain their homes as heads of family with an average of 2 to 5 children. Even though these women currently face great challenges such as the impossibility of reconciling employment and work at home and insufficient support for care activities, they are seeking ways to overcome these challenges and formalize their projects.

In order to address these underlying disparities compounded by the pandemic we seek to increment the access to non-formal education for vulnerable women of Panama. Through the initial virtual adaptation of the program we have been able to train over 142 women in 10 months, from which 80% have elevated or sustained their self-steem levels as 97% have been positively assessed in advancing the development of their entrepreneurial capabilities. In order to rebuild education and employment pathways for our beneficiaries, we aim to continue to strengthen our psycho-emotional and vocational program through a virtual training platform focused on integrating entrepreneurship and digital training. Our goal is to build a robust learning virtual platform centered on the beneficiaries to grant access to 300 at-risk women in the same amount of months.

The challenge Fundacion Calicanto currently faces is being able to meet the demand of the program which has increased by 30% since the end of 2020 as more women are drawn to the program and seeking to improve their abilities, economic resilience and, financial stability towards asset building.

CAPTA student during training
CAPTA student during training
CAPTA and its impact on future generations
CAPTA and its impact on future generations

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Organization Information

Fundacion Calicanto

Location: Panama City, Panama - Panama
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @fundcalicanto
Project Leader:
Gabriela Valencia
Panama, Panama
$117,535 raised of $150,000 goal
 
1,182 donations
$32,465 to go
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