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Our take on the state of the region

Happy International Women’s Day!

Author: Larisa Casillas

On this International Women’s Day, I reflect on my mother’s immigration journey. Her strength and resilience guided her through the challenges of life in a foreign land. She didn’t know the language or the system, but she was determined to forge a new and better life.

Shortly after arriving to the US, my mom worked at a cannery. For a decade she would stir tomato sauce in vats so big she had to climb towering ladders. The toll on her body was palpable, but what the job gave her outweighed its difficulties. The job allowed her to be more independent, to financially contribute to the household, and to share in the decision-making.

Today, as I witness immigrant women in this year’s Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (BCLI) cohort, I see echoes of my mother’s tenacity.

Thinking about the potential impact my mom could have made with programs like BCLI fills me with awe. Her innate persistence, organizational skills, and ability to connect with people could have propelled her into a role as a commissioner, tirelessly advocating for progressive, equity-focused change.

At the heart of Urban Habitat’s mission is the belief that those directly affected by inequitable policies should be instrumental in shaping decisions. This conviction fuels the BCLI, a transformative program supporting and training low-income people of color, predominantly women, to serve on public commissions through a lens of racial equity.

The narratives of our alumnae are woven with threads of resilience. Balancing full-time work, parenting, and familial responsibilities, they overcome financial challenges and health setbacks. Their unwavering commitment to creating a better world for their communities exemplifies the transformative power of women in decision-making roles.

As I celebrate International Women’s Day, I hold up my mom and so many other women like her as a symbol of inspiration. She raised three independent, persistent women: each contributing to racial equity, and holding open the doors for the next generation of female leaders. Today, we honor not just my mom, but every woman whose strength and self-determination pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive world.