At Heifer International, we see repeatedly how powerful women become when they have the tools and resources to thrive. Receiving an animal gift is a good first step to economic sustainability, but it’s women’s leadership that’s building up communities around the world. Why? Because successful women help not only themselves, but also their families and other people in their communities. The power of women and community is a global universal. We are thrilled today to introduce you to an amazing, groundbreaking community leader as part of our Women’s Empowerment Community Leader Series.
Today’s Women’s Empowerment Community Leader Spotlight is on LaShaun Martin, National Vice President, Operations of Mocha Moms, a non-profit organization with nearly 100 chapters in 29 states and a fast growing online presence of more than 100,000 followers dedicated to supporting mothers of color. Mochas host educational summits, health and wellness symposiums and financial literacy workshops. Mochas are actively engaged in weekly support group meetings, moms-only events and a wide range of community service.
What was the pivotal moment that led you to create your community?
Although I'm not a founder of Mocha Moms, Inc., I was led to this organization twelve years ago as a new mom with two girls in desperate need of connections to other moms in a new city. Mocha Moms, Inc. was the answer to that need for my family. I walked into a moms' support group filled with women and children and the rest is history!
Can you share an example of a woman in your community who has done something amazing?
Cree Davis, our Southeast Regional Director, organized a national campaign to assist one of our members whose son drowned while in daycare. The needs of this member were varied, but that didn't stop Cree from going above and beyond to assist our mom and her family. To do so, she appealed to our other Mocha members across the country to assist our member by sending donations, writing cards, letters or simply getting her out of the house for dinner and a movie. Through Cree's efforts, our community graciously rallied around this mom and took care of her as any family would.
There’s a sense that women can be competitive and singularly focused in their work; can you share a favorite example you have witnessed – inside or outside of your community – of the value of women rising together?
Mocha Moms, Inc. was built and is sustained by professional women who at some point found it necessary to leave the traditional workforce or significantly alter their schedules to make parenting a priority. Some of our moms made the decision to return to work after a period of time. The support and networking among members has been phenomenal. From shared resources to sharing childcare, our moms have leaned on each other for assistance.
We would love to hear about a woman who has empowered you! Who is someone who said yes to you or encouraged you to do more/do better for others?
It is difficult to select only one woman who has empowered me. I am consistently empowered by an army of strong, educated and selfless women who invest their time and talents by serving others. These women teach the next generation of young leaders, feed families in soup kitchens, plan holiday parties for the homeless and fill purses with toiletries for women who have escaped domestic violence. I call these women my Army of Bravery!
A key way we help empower women is by providing resources and ongoing training to help them grow and then help others. What resources and types of training have best helped your community thrive?
Our Parent Nation events have been invaluable to our members. We focus on topics of interest to our moms, invite subject matter experts and facilitate discussions among our members in a virtual space.
A big piece of Heifer’s work in women’s empowerment and social capital is gender equity – teaching women and men that shared decision making and leadership is a good thing – which can be challenging in patriarchal communities. What do you think is one of our society’s key challenges to help women close the equity gap?
A woman knowing her worth in male-dominated systems is critical. Self-worth serves as a reminder that we are not subservient or subordinate to our male counterparts. We are qualified, educated and capable of doing the same and sometimes a better job. We deserve a seat at the table. If one is not offered to us, we buy the hammer, wood and nails and build our own chairs.
We believe that the women’s empowerment journey is universal, even if details differ depending on where a woman lives. What do you see as a key universal – a thread that connects all women around the globe – when it comes to women, leadership, and/or community?
Resilience! Universally, women have the amazing ability to overcome any obstacle, dust herself off and keep it moving!
Which of Heifer’s women's empowerment programs is your favorite? Why?
Send a Girl to School, because when you educate a girl, you empower the girl as well as the family and community behind her.