“What can we do to educate people in our neighborhood?”

Julia del Cid poses the question to her fellow group members. Sitting in a circle around the center patio of her home in San Andresito II, an urban community of Mixco, Guatemala, Julia and other group members discuss one major problem they see in their community: poor garbage removal.

They are part of a group called Mujeres Ahorradoras (Women Saving), a PCI-organized Women’s Empowered (WE) group, that advocates for women’s empowerment, and the betterment of their community.

This is not the first time the group has discussed garbage in their community. The women of Mujeres Ahorradoras had previously organized and carried out a sanitation campaign, coordinating with neighbors, local universities, and municipal leaders to gather waste from the streets. Julia and her small army of savings group members often challenge the local government and their neighbors to pay attention. They may be few in numbers, but when you’re with them, you feel like you’re in the middle of an organized attack, a raid on those who stand in the way of a better community.

On this day, at the request of the group, two staff members from Guatemala’s Ministry of Health pay them a visit to talk about proper hygiene, adequate use of water, and the prevention of food and water borne illnesses. The women’s faces light up as they watch one technician test the level of chlorine in the water spilling from the tap outside. Several begin to ask him questions about this process. In this moment, they have just become active players in the monitoring and control of water quality in their community.

The women’s sense of self-worth and their desire to learn is what drives them to explore their environment and think critically about changes they’d like to see in their community. So what exactly is the secret to awakening this sense of possibility and empowering women as a force for good? Women, when alone and isolated, can be made to feel vulnerable, voiceless and powerless.

As an organized group, however, they’re inspired to support each other and their community to be the change. PCI’s WE groups develop a shared vision and action plan to address community issues. In the case of Mujeres Ahorradoras, they’re formulating a long-term plan of individual and group activities to confront improper waste management in their neighborhood. As Julia suitably puts it, “When we don’t like what we see, we say something! More than that, we’re here to do something.” Check out just what it is they’re doing.