Edith Calderón, Semillas’ Advisory Committee President
Edith Calderón studied hard and worked even harder on her way to a successful career as a foundation philanthropist. But, it was the rich textile tradition of the indigenous women in her native Mexico that inspired her to help them weave a better life for themselves through her work as Board President of Semillas, Mexico’s pre-eminent women’s fund. She recalled that, as a youngster in Michoacan state, she shared her mother’s deep appreciation for indigenous textiles. “She taught me to value them, and that permitted me to appreciate the artisans’ work as an art,” she said. She didn’t forget as she pursued her education. Calderón holds an MBA and a master’s in human rights from the Universidad Iberoamericana, a specialization in finance from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and a degree in executive management from the Colegio de Graduados en Alta Dirección. She worked for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for six years, at Mexico’s Ministry of Finance for seven years, and for 10 years she was the Financial Director for a conglomerate of companies focused on recycling initiatives.
In 1988, Calderón was able to transform her appreciation for the textile work and her commitment for gender equity and women’s rights into a project that economically empowered indigenous artisans in the state of Michoacán. Through capacity-building workshops in design and technique, the artisans improved the quality of their textiles, earned more income and were able to improve their quality of life. “Accompanying indigenous women during this process allowed them to recognize their own abilities and strengths as protagonists in the development of their communities,” she said. In 2004, she joined La Sociedad Mexicana Pro Derechos de la Mujer (Semillas), the only women’s fund in Mexico. It was founded in 1990 to provide resources to women’s organizations in Mexico. It provides capacity-building programs and grants in the areas of women and work, sexual and reproductive rights, reduction of gender-based violence, and human rights. Ten years after Calderón’s first project with indigenous artisans, the Semillas Board President is working on a similar initiative to market and sell high quality textiles. The profits are returned directly to the artisans and reinforce the notion that their work improves their lives and that of their families and communities. “I’ve seen that, when a woman is inspired and works with other women from her community, they can achieve important changes in a short period of time,” she said. “Change isn’t easy, it isn’t fast, but it is possible,” she added.