Grantee Spotlight: Building an Empathetic Community of Latina Survivors

Grantee spotlight: Imelda Esquer Rico, YWCA Southern Arizona

RALIANCE’s grantees, who receive funding through our partnership with the National Football League, work on a wide range of projects aimed at sexual violence prevention. Many of these projects are focused on community support that is culturally competent, which means understanding the unique needs of a specific group and designing programs to meet them. (For more on the meaning of cultural competence, you can check out last week’s blog.)

The YWCA of Southern Arizona received a $50,000 RALIANCE grant for their “Promotoras Rompiendo Cadenas” program. Translated in English as “Community Educators Breaking Chains,” the bilingual program aims to prevent sexual and domestic violence and connect survivors with community resources for seeking help and reporting abuse. 

This week, we sat down with Imelda Esquer Rico, the program manager at YWCA, to discuss the program’s growth.

RALIANCE: What motivated you to apply for a RALIANCE grant?

Imelda: We conducted an internal survey at YWCA that found 65% of our members had experienced some form of domestic violence, whether physical, emotional, psychological, verbal, or sexual abuse. Because many of our members in Southern Arizona are Latina, we launched the bilingual “Promotoras Rompiendo Cadenas” program to support this community of women, providing them with educational opportunities to recognize the signs of abuse and to know where they can turn for help. We sought a grant from RALIANCE in order to fund the expansion of our program and ultimately reach more women, and we are immensely grateful to RALIANCE for making this program possible.

RALIANCE: Why was it important to expand a program that specifically serves Spanish speakers?

Imelda: Latina survivors face significant barriers to seeking help. For example, many women in our community fear that reporting abuse will draw unwanted attention to their immigration status. Additionally, the region’s intervention services — such as rape crisis centers — often lack Spanish speakers, which makes it challenging for survivors to receive meaningful support when seeking help. Meeting this community where they are by communicating with them in a language that makes them comfortable is critical to ensuring they receive the support that suits their needs. 

RALIANCE: What was the result of expanding the program?

Imelda: Thanks to RALIANCE, we were able to train ten new “Promotoras,” or community educators, who go into their communities and provide awareness and prevention training to more women in churches, in their homes, and other gathering places.

And our community continues to grow. I currently have a WhatsApp group of 300 women, who form a network for mutual aid. This means that if anyone in our community needs something, the whole group rallies together to make sure they get what they need. We have effectively created a community of people connected by the empathy they show each other.

Our training also gave Promotoras the confidence to become community leaders in their own right – they began to show up to community meetings to advocate for survivors’ needs, even in environments that have been unwelcoming to marginalized people in the past. One thing that has been especially gratifying is that our Promotoras have been invited to local colleges and universities to share their expertise on sexual and domestic violence. It is beautiful to see the broader community recognize them as leaders and a voice of authority based on the impact and visibility of their work.

RALIANCE: How can our readers support your organization?

Imelda: We’re incredibly proud of our Promotoras, and we love to honor their work with compensation whenever we can. For this reason, we always appreciate financial contributions, which help us compensate our volunteers and expand our movement to support Latina survivors.

RALIANCE provides consulting, assessment, and employee development services to help build more equitable workplace cultures and create environments free from sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse. We stand ready to support your organization’s goals – contact us today at [email protected] to get started.

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