Women's Conference held June 24, 2017 at Dolores Mission. Photo by Ellie Hidalgo

By Rosario Bonilla

Boyle Heights Beat

More than 300 women gathered early at Dolores Mission on a hot Saturday morning last month to celebrate 20 years of women empowerment under the theme “Women United in the Struggle”.

The number of participants at Proyecto Pastoral’s Women’s Conference has grown ten times since it began in 1997.  A big reason for this, and why many women continue to return every year is because of the personal growth they achieve through educating themselves.

“The workshops they offer, [are on] a variety of things, not only about good relationships but also to empower them in the financial, educational, and legal system, “ says Lucy Rodriguez, 53, who has been a volunteer instructor for 13 years.

Rodriguez gives a workshop called “El Vestido de la Dignidad” that is popular amongst participants. “It provides them with all those tools that if they don’t attend the conference, there’s no way they would know,” she says.

The Women’s Conference was started by members of Proyecto Pastoral and Dolores Mission who saw that women were lacking access to knowledge on issues relevant to their personal needs.

Rosa Campos, 57, has lived in Boyle Heights for 48 years and has participated in the conferences since the beginning. Campos says the reason they started was, “ to educate us, especially about self-esteem”.

Each year at the end of January, a team at Proyecto Pastoral and Dolores Mission begin planning the conference, which always takes place in June.

The day starts with an early morning registration and breakfast, welcome speech and then the workshops begin. Participants can choose up to three workshops from 26 total options.

Workshops include classes to help women better understand their bodies, minds, and lives. Classes cover a variety of topics like mental illness, domestic violence, confidence, health, financial stability, and more.

“It’s to improve women, so that women have strength, power, information. That’s what the goal continues to be” says Margarita Severiano, who has lived in Boyle Heights for 21 years, “It inspires you to continue learning, improving.”

All photos by Ellie Hidalgo.

Rosario Bonilla is a senior at Óscar de la Hoya Ánimo Charter High School. She enjoys art and reading. She hopes to attend a four-year college after high school.

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