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Mujeres Mundi, Interviews with Extraordinary Women

This is the first part of an interview reported on in two parts. 

The interviews on the Mujeres Mundi blog highlight the incredible work of women in societal development throughout the entire world — from humanitarian worker Charlotte Dufour from France and defender of human rights Natasha Latif from Singapore, to graphic reporter Mariam Alimi from Afghanistan and animal activist Molly Mednikow from the United States.

Xaviera Medina de Albrand, a native of Pucallpa in the Peruvian Amazon, is the brains and energy behind this blog. In her profile, she explains that “destiny (and love)” made her leave Peru for Paris, France: “I had never planned to be a globe-trotter but, with destiny hard at work, I flew to Afghanistan, making a detour through the Arab Emirates, Azarbaijan and India.” Now she lives in Brussels (Belgium) with her husband and daughter.

Xaviera explains that she looks to “use the mix of communication, marketing and new technologies as tools to promote awareness and to turn communication into action. As creator of Mujeres Mundi (Women World), I am convinced that this is my first step towards doing that.” Xaviera tells us a bit more about her life and her blog in this interview.

Why the name “Mujeres Mundi”?

El nombre salió de casualidad. Pasé de “Mujeres Trabajando” a “Mujeres Mundi” porque pensé que el primero iba a encerrarme en la idea de mujeres trabajadoras = negocios, quería ir más allá y tocar temas sociales también. Probé con otros nombres como Femina pero tenía la impresión que sonaba a revista de modas, no tengo nada en contra, pero no va realmente con el objetivo principal del proyecto. Luego pensé en Women World, pero ya hay bastante o solo en “W” (por Women) o “M” (por Mujer), al final salió el Mundi y me gustó el sonido.

The name happened by chance. I went from “Women Working” to “Mujeres Mundi” because I thought at first that I would solely stick to the idea of working women = businesses, but I wanted to go beyond that and touch upon social topics as well. I tried other names like Femina but I got the impression that that made it sound like a fashion magazine, and while I have nothing against them, it didn't really go with the primary objective of the project. Later I thought about Women World, but there is already plenty of that or in “W” (for Women), so in the end I came across Mundi and I liked the sound of it.

Mujeres Mundi looks to create a consciousness about the capacity we women have to develop society. What led you to focus your blog on this theme? 

Mujeres Mundi como idea de proyecto lo tenía desarrollando en silencio, en mi cabeza y el corazón desde finales del 2009, cuando nació mi hija. Luego de mi experiencia trabajando en comunicación social en Afganistán vi la necesidad de comunicar los esfuerzos que muchos individuos realizan en pro del desarrollo de sus comunidades, sobre todo en pequeña escala.

Me explico en este punto: a lo largo de mi carrera como expatriada, tuve la oportunidad de conocer y colaborar con mujeres y varones comprometidos en una carrera humanitaria, poniendo en primer lugar la utilidad de sus acciones sobre cualquier otra consideración. Yo tenía un universo cercano al suyo pero no era el mismo – siempre trabajé para empresas privadas pero manejando proyectos sociales -. Con el correr del tiempo reflexionaba sobre la acción de estas personas y veía sus personalidades y proyectos como ejemplos a seguir con la convicción de que sus ejemplos pueden convertirse en fuentes de cambio en comunidades similares, quizás a kilómetros de distancia.

I had Mujeres Mundi, as an idea for a project, developing silently in my head and my heart from the end of 2009, when my daughter was born. Later, during my experience working in social communication in Afghanistan, I saw the need to communicate the efforts that many individuals made in favor of their communities’ development, above all on a small scale.

Let me explain that point: Over the course of my career as an expatriate, I had the opportunity to know and collaborate with women and men committed to humanitarian careers, putting first and foremost the usefulness of their actions above any other consideration. I had a universe close to theirs but it was not the same — I always worked for private companies but managed social projects. As time went on, I reflected on the actions of these people and saw their personalities and projects as examples to follow with the belief that their examples can become sources of change in similar communities, perhaps only kilometers away.

When did Mujeres Mundi start? 

Mujeres Mundi empezó a cobrar forma en febrero del 2012, curiosamente cuando pierdo mi empleo en Bruselas (donde radico desde hace dos años) debido a la banca rota de la empresa. ¡A mal tiempo buena cara!, así que me dije a mi misma “ahora si tengo tiempo para mi proyecto”. Tenía muchas ideas en mente, ¡era como la teoría del Bing Bang pero en mi cabeza! pero había un punto sobre el que estaba clara: quería tocar el tema del desarrollo social, tomando ejemplos de vida, una vez más, para ser tomados como fuentes de cambio. En nuestra época, no podemos hablar de derechos humanos, desarrollo social, salud, política y hasta medio ambiente si no tocamos el tema de la mujer, es como si en cierta forma el tema de la mujer complementa los otros.

Mujeres Mundi began taking shape in February 2012, oddly enough when I lost my job in Brussels (where I have been living for the past two years) because the company had gone bankrupt. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! So I told myself, “now I have time for my project.” I had a lot of ideas in mind — it was like the Big Bang Theory but in my head! — but there was one point that I was very clear on: I wanted to focus on the theme of social development, taking real life examples, once again, to be taken as sources of change. In our time, we cannot talk about human rights, social development, health, politics, even the environment, if we do not talk about the topic of women. It's as if, in some ways, the topic of women complements the others.
Xaviera Medina de Albrand

Xaviera Medina de Albrand, photo used with permission

Do you consider yourself a feminist? 

[...] muchos me consideran feminista y a decir verdad, no me molesta, sin embargo me considero más que nada humanista (con cierta dosis de animalista). Provengo y he vivido en sociedades donde formatean a la mujer a ser menor que el varón y a servir solamente para limpiar los trastos….¡cuando en realidad los trastos los podemos limpiar juntos! No es necesario ser dueña de una empresa multinacional o presidente de un país para ser parte del desarrollo de nuestras sociedades, pero eso es un estado mental.

En Mujeres Mundi se entrevistan mujeres con todo tipo de perfiles, que van desde activistas hasta jefas de empresa, es un mezcla que dice “poco importa donde estés, lo que haces puede tener una repercusión y una importancia tal que no puedes imaginar”. Podría citar ejemplos específicos entre las entrevistadas por el proyecto…¡pero tendría que citarlas a todas porque todas son un ejemplo! Un detalle a mencionar, si bien la mayoría de entrevistadas son mujeres, ha habido también varones quienes en el desarrollo de sus actividades fomentan el rol de la mujer.

[...] many consider me a feminist and to tell you the truth, it doesn't bother me, however I consider myself more than anything a humanist (with a certain dose of animalism). I come from and have lived in societies where they format women to be below men with the sole purpose of cleaning junk… when in reality we can clean the junk together! You don't necessarily have to be the head of a multinational corporation or president of a country to be part of our societies’ development, but that is a mental state.

In Mujeres Mundi, women of all types are interviewed, ranging from activists to company managers, it is a mix that says “it matters little where you are, but what you do can have repercussions and an importance so much so that you cannot even imagine.” I could cite specific examples among the women interviewed by the project… but I would have to cite all of them because they are all examples! A detail to mention — although the majority of those interviewed are women, there have also been men who have promoted the role of women in the development of their activities.

Why interview women instead of simply writing about them? 

Porque le da un toque más personal. Incluso yo busco hablar con ellas y, hasta ahora, todas las entrevistas han sido orales. Es cierto que sería mas sencillo ‘googlearlas’, conseguir información y escribir sobre ellas pero yo necesito hablar con ellas, conocerlas. Las entrevistas en realidad al final parecen conversaciones entre amigas, doy mucha importancia al timbre de voz y a las emociones que se muestran cuando me narran sus anécdotas, eso no hay un Google que pueda darme. Además, no hay satisfacción más grande, al terminar el día de haber conversado con ellas. Cada una, a su manera, es una esencia de pasiones por lo que hacen ¡que terminan contagiándome! Son mi dosis de vitaminas.

Because it gives it a more personal feel. I even look to talk to them and, up until now, all of the interviews have been oral. It is true that it would be easier to “google them,” get the information and write about them, but I need to talk to them, get to know them. In the end, the interviews, in reality, look like conversations between friends. I put a lot of emphasis on the tone of voice and the emotions that are shown when they tell me their stories, no Google can give me that. Also, there is no greater satisfaction, upon finishing my day than having spoken with them. Each one, in her own way, is an essence of passion for what they do so much so that it's contagious! They are my dose of vitamins.

Has it been complicated getting these interviews as an independent blogger? 

Lo que sucede es que tengo la suerte de conocer mujeres fantásticas, heroínas de verdad y es así como salieron las primeras entrevistas, porque simplemente entrevistaba mujeres que ya conocía y que son mis amigas. Seguí teniendo suerte porque muchas de ellas, sobre todo las artistas y activistas aceptaron sin dudar. Hay claro, gente que nunca respondió a mis emails, pero bueno… Lo que me emociona es cuando veo las respuestas positivas de gente que son ya conocidas y que me agradecen por dar a conocer sus proyectos…¡cuando soy yo quien les agradece por aceptarme!

What happened was that I was lucky to know fantastic women, true heroines, and that is how the first interviews came about, simply because I interviewed women that I already knew and who were my friends. I continued to be lucky because many of them, above all the artists and activists, agreed without question. Of course, there were people who never responded to my email, but oh well… The thing that excites me is when I see the positive responses from people who are already well-known, thanking me for letting people know about their projects… when I am the one who is grateful to them for talking to me!

In the second part of this interview, Xaviera tells us about the English and French versions of Mujeres Mundi, and about a project that looks to answer the question, “What is the role of women in your society?”

You can follow Xaviera and Mujeres Mundi on Twitter and Facebook.

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