The Women We Admire

Today is celebrated as International Women’s Day. The date was declared by the United Nations in 1975 and was first commemorated in the West two years after its establishment. March 8 represents demonstrations for the struggle of rights and the various movements, events, and mobilizations that gave rise to their origin. The ephemeris is the memory of the cruelest episode in the battle for women’s rights: on March 25, 1911, when New York’s Triangle Shirtwaist shirt factory was set on fire, in which 123 women (mostly young immigrants between the ages of 14 and 23) and 23 men died. Ephemeris is the account of the struggle of millions of women who are still marching today because their voices are heard.

Women in several countries around the world, and in Latin America and Columbia, are the repository of much of the cultural traditions of indigenous and Afro-descendant populations, becoming a fundamental part of the development of their communities. Its role is part of a spiritual connection with the environment: In indigenous peoples, for example, their figure is regarded as the epicenter of ancestral traditions. In Afro-descendant communities, it is synonymous with autonomy and freedom. Therefore, development is not exclusively limited to the economic sphere, the care and rearing of children, the transmission of traditions to younger generations, and the historical memory of communities also depend on them.

At Tierra Grata, we understand its value. That is why we want to highlight and remove from anonymity the profiles of women with whom we have worked and who are mothers head of households, independent workers, leaders in their territory, role models.

Merlys Valdez Pérez – The luminaire of Isla de León

Merlys Valdez runs the Las Leonas Foundation, which has the primary incidence in Isla de León, located in the back of the El Pozón neighborhood, a sector with significant social stigma in Cartagena. Merlys, a year ago, has been promoting the sociopolitical and cultural appropriation of the territory in its community.

She has bet on the recognition of Lion Island as one more neighborhood of the city. Since 2016 she has headed the group of citizens who are required of district institutions to appoint the sector and its inclusion on the local map.

Since 2011 she has been actively involved in carrying out projects that promote the development of the farmhouse. Thanks to this, they have advanced in the improvement of homes made of boards, plastic, and zinc initially, and built on a plot of land that in the early 2000s was a mudslide bordered by a plastic pipe called Caño Limón, in whose waters floated rubbish and solid objects.

She opened the door for us to intervene in the face of the inefficiency of the public lighting that affected them; his leadership brought the inhabitants together around one goal: to make the streets safer at night. After 20 years of its foundation, the neighbors of Isla can light up their night’s thanks to Merlys, Guardian of Light, and our Program Night Grasa. Thank you, Merlys!

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