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Empowering Dreams: My Journey with the ELLA Global Community in Antioquia

The power of belonging

by Danielle Siqueira

As I sit down to write about my experiences with the ELLA Global Community and the incredible women from the Colombian region of Antioquia, I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of honour. Being part of ELLA has been nothing short of a privilege, and through it, I've had the chance to meet remarkable women and nonbinary people who inspire me every day. Their stories have transformed the way I approach my work, reinforcing the power of community and the fight for safe visibility and respect as queer women.

In the beauty of Colombia's Antioquia region, something truly powerful is unfolding. A remarkable group of queer women entrepreneurs who are defying the odds and chasing their dreams, persisting with projects that can provide them financial independence. With the intention of bringing them workshops about inclusive language, inclusivity in the workplace, and Colombia’s laws, I rediscovered how ELLA's initiatives give hope, and invite all of us queer women to join forces as a community as well as raise awareness among our allies and possible sponsors in the mission of making space for all of us in society.

I believe in neglecting diversity, a society becomes less productive, less creative and inevitably less valuable.

Picture the breathtaking landscapes of Antioquia, and then add stories of unwavering resilience, unwavering courage, and an indomitable desire for economic independence. These queer women entrepreneurs, scattered throughout this captivating region, face a unique set of challenges. They're up against scarce resources, unreliable internet connections, and societal prejudices.

The story

The ELLA team comes as one of these women, we know what kind of issues these women face just for being queer. Unmet needs, looks of prejudice, contractors who decline our work demands, and clients who may not be so open to supporting our businesses when they see the person behind the brand.

So, what did ELLA do? It all started with three online live workshops as part of the Germina project, commissioned by the Comfama pool of companies. This project is all about boosting the financial inclusion of women in the North, Southwest, and East sub-regions of Antioquia. They get preferential access to investment credit and a comprehensive training program to supercharge their business models. That's a game-changer right there.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing. The lack of stable internet connections in some parts of Antioquia posed a serious challenge. Imagine these women juggling professional responsibilities and taking care of their homes and families. It's a lot on their plates. But we, ELLA Global Community, weren't about to back down; we were on a mission to find a solution that would make the content of these workshops accessible to these determined women.

And what did we come up with? A WhatsApp group. Yep, you heard it right. A seemingly ordinary messaging space became a lifeline, connecting around 35 women enrolled in the Germina loan program. In this WhatsApp group, ELLA's vision of inclusivity sprouts.

Since we became aware that not everyone has the best internet connection, the content shared in the WhatsApp group had to be easily downloadable. From helpful videos to inspiring audio messages, and from informative visuals to thought-inviting photos, these entrepreneurs have access to a treasure trove of content, allowing them to learn and grow at their own pace.

The program is in full swing now, with daily content shared on WhatsApp and two workshops already under our belt. They happen once a week, offering a live platform

for those who can join. In the following days, recordings are posted for those who can't participate in real-time.

The sense of community within this WhatsApp group and in the live meetings is a testament to the incredible power of collective support. These members share their professional and personal challenges and triumphs, providing a safety network for one another regardless of where they live, how they identify, and how far apart their projects are taking shape.

ELLA Global Community's workshops aren't just about business strategies through inclusive language; they're about personal empowerment. Participants learn the importance of our own community as queer people, aligning their brands with those committed to inclusivity, and how to leverage social media to grow their companies by relying on one another to boost posts and shared ideas. In this supportive environment, they can ask anything, from financial guidance to how to build and maintain a diverse productive team.

ELLA's mission is about lifting these entrepreneurs up, providing them a space where they can be themselves, and show their vulnerabilities in a circle of people who fully understand and respect each one in the group. Emotional support is sometimes all that is lacking in these already confident women ready to thrive.

People connected through life experiences, this is the beauty of being alive and I am at a loss for words in describing the incredible impact ELLA Global Community has in 189 countries. Our participation in the Germina project is sponsored by USAID and ELLA's CEO, Kristin Hansen. Personally, it is a reminder of the strength that comes from unity and support, and the boundless potential when barriers are dismantled.

They are the change makers

The queer entrepreneur women of Antioquia call us to stand in solidarity, champion them, and ensure their stories of strength and resilience continue to flourish.

These entrepreneurs are the catalysts for positive change, and ELLA Global Community is happily being the wind beneath their wings.

In the breathtaking landscapes of Antioquia, ELLA Global Community is planting the seeds of belonging, nurturing dreams, and creating a ripple effect that transforms all involved if we allow ourselves to feel how much change we can make just by coming together.



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