Her name was Ana. Just 27 years old, Ana was a housekeeper at a local hotel, and she was murdered in a small community outside of Copan Ruinas earlier this year.
We never worked with Ana at Casita Copan, but I can imagine what it was like to be her. I can imagine Ana going to work at her housekeeping job, with her worn shoes polished and her thick black hair pulled into a tight bun. I can imagine Ana returning late after work, exhausted and wanting to bathe before bed. I wonder how many children she had, and if she had a stove to warm up tortillas for her kids after work each night. I can envision the room she rented and shared with her children, now empty and abandoned.
Ana is the type of mother we serve at Casita Copán. Almost a third of our mothers are under 30, and most work cleaning jobs in banks, restaurants, or hotels, like Ana. The rest work in low-paying jobs making tortillas or other Honduran dishes like baleadas and empanadas. Although Honduran law requires employers to pay their employees a minimum monthly salary of $346 a month, the average mother at Casita Copán earns just $109. Many of our mothers work from dawn to dusk, 6 or 7 days per week and with their meager salaries are only able to afford a single room for themselves and their children.
It’s true that both men and women in Honduras face a myriad of obstacles, but for women the challenges are especially difficult. Women are susceptible to violence, as police do little to enforce the few laws the country has to protect them. Cultural norms and discrimination against women make it difficult for women to find paid work. Over 50% of Honduran women are not able to find stable work outside of the home, limiting both their autonomy and their ability to support their families. The poorer a mother is, the more likely she is to have more children, and the younger she is likely to be when she has them. At Casita Copán, 72% of our mothers had their first child before the age of 18. In addition, women are often the victim of sexual or physical abuse, which can lead to struggles with mental illness that will inevitably go untreated. At times, a woman can find it impossible to raise her children safely, and since Honduras lacks the support networks to offer assistance, many women simply lose custody of their children or are forced to abandon them. For example, half of the mothers we serve at Casita Copán were not able to care for at least one of their children prior to being accepted into our programs.
Our goal at Casita Copán is to keep families together by supporting mothers. We regularly connect with our mothers, listen to them, and offer them the support they need most. In a recent survey, our moms rated our daycare and educational programs for children as the services they find most helpful in keeping their families safe, strong, and together.
In our current campaign, we are exploring the underlying causes of child abandonment. We launched our campaign two weeks ago with a discussion of child hunger and malnutrition. Gender inequality is our second topic. Keep connected with us this week for more photos, videos, and information on how we can all work together to #ReSolveGenderInequality. You can also make a donation today to #JoinTheReSolution!