Non-profit strives to empower Latina women

September 15, 2009 (CHICAGO) For years it's helped women overcome obstacles so they and their families can lead better lives.

Mujeres Latinas En Accion was founded in 1973. It is one of the largest standing Latina non-profit organizations in the country.

Maria Socorro Pesqueira is the president and CEO of Mujeres. Chicago magazine named Pesqueira one of six Chicagoans of the year in 2006 and she was featured in Crain's Chicago Business as one of 40 under 40 for the year 2000. She is passionate about empowering Latina women.

"Our mission is to empower. Quite simply, it is through leadership development," said Pesqueira.

Mujeres has crisis intervention programs dealing with sexual assault, domestic violence and homelessness. There is also a women in transition program as well as after school youth programs, parenting workshops and a program for mothers and their teenage daughters.

"When I see the communications skills provided between moms and daughters, when I see the strength that is given to our young women to be able to be themselves and continue to grow, respect who they are and be respected," said Pesquiera.

Pesqueira is a graduate of DePaul University and the Harvard University JFK School of Government. She has received a number of recognitions and awards for the Mujeres' Latina leadership programs that empower women.

"Being a good leader also means knowing how to take care of yourself so that others around you will also see the importance of caring for themselves," said Pesquiera.

Araceli De Lira is a now a single mother of five who was living in an abusive home. She no longer lives with her husband and says Mujeres gave her back her life.

"The programs are the best. The programs have things that I need," said De Lira.

Pesqueira is on a number of local and national boards and travels extensively developing programs for Latina women.

"It shows the courage of the women that have come to really strengthen themselves and their families that give me inspiration," said Pesquiera.

Pesqueira wants to continue to develop programs that help women navigate the system and bring about change. She believes it is important to empower Latinas and their families to become self-reliant, take full advantage of available opportunities and to create new opportunities to improve the quality of their lives.

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