I was recently interviewed for a book about women in leadership. I was in good company with other women who’d held leadership roles across industries. But as I listened to everyone speak at the book launch party, something struck me. I had worked with numerous strong, smart, accomplished women throughout my career, but none of them were as inspiring as the women of LMI.
I recently had the opportunity to spend a week on campus, teaching Tell Your Story week to the second year students and participating in self-defense classes with all the students. I learned things about these women that I hadn’t known before and I think they learned a lot about themselves.
The students at LMI are some of the strongest people I’ve ever met. Honduras is a beautiful country with some of the highest rates in the world for teen pregnancy, gender-based violence, and femicide. These students have overcome incredible odds just to be able to attend The Leadership Center. I heard stories about lack of sufficient funds for the bus trip to campus, deaths in their families, long journeys, lack of food, abuse, mental health challenges, the need to take care of families, and more. But every one of these women persevered and made it to campus. Each day is a fight to stay and not to be pulled back home.
We worked on resumes with the students who will graduate this year. Almost every one of them told me she had a lot of skills but no work experience. I couldn’t reconcile this – where did they learn all these skills? By the end of the class I learned that they each had more work experience than one should have by their early to mid-20s because they’d been working most of their lives. They’d work on their family farms, in their parent’s businesses, at their churches, and in their schools. In their world, these things weren’t usually acknowledged as legitimate work experience – but now each of them has a resume that truly reflects their incredible work ethic, job experience, and skill sets.
They have visions for their future. I was blown away to hear them tell me about the businesses they want to start, the development projects they want to do to help their communities, the education they hope to get, and the jobs they want to pursue. This group includes future entrepreneurs, teachers, lawyers, and activists.
So yes, I have the privilege of knowing amazingly accomplished women: lawyers, senior government officials, business owners, crime-solvers, consulting leaders, CEOs, COOs, authors, and artists. But I have never been more inspired than I am by the strength, wisdom, perseverance, and drive of the women of LMI. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.
Melanie with Cohort 11 student, Martha at the quarterly birthday celebration.