She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “I dream of a world where we do not have plans for equality, because equality already exists, a world where each individual has rights, just for the sake of being born. I dream of a world where one is not judged by his or her sexual orientation, race or nationality”.
She says also: “You notice this reality that envelops you and one day you get up angry, seeing that, as a woman, you do not get same access to resources, your salary is smaller and you are relegated to the traditional role of housewife. At school nobody mentions women, there are no role models for women, and those that exist are usually transformed into stepmothers, fairies or witches, or we are saved by men, the so-called ‘real’ heroes”.
Montserrat Sampere Martín – Spain
She works for the San Fermín Project Association.
And she says: “For a woman who is mistreated or for an unemployed immigrant the best kind of help comes from someone nearby, having a coffee with them and discussing calmly, rather than meeting with them in an office in front of a computer”.
In the global village there are thousands of examples of quiet work, like that accomplished by Montserrat Sampere. In the marginal neighborhood of San Fermín, she carries out her work in an effort romote equality and change her local environment.
In the slums of Madrid, there are strikes, a lack of public services, drugs and domestic violence.
The social friction is palpable and the members of the community are often marginalized and sent off into institutional oblivion.
Montserrat and her colleagues give courses and workshops, fighting for a community where life is a ight, not a luxury. She works for a healthy neighborhood.
At age 36, Montserrat is not afraid of the troubles she faces in reality: “I dream of a world where we do not have plans for equality, because it already exists, a world where each individual has rights, just for the sake of being born. I dream of a world where one is not judged by his or her sexual orientation, race or nationality.”
She is passionate about justice for all and has never wanted to abandon the place where she was born.
Life in San Fermín has never been easy.
San Fermín is a low-income neighborhood on the southern side of Madrid, sandwiched between the highways entering Madrid. The neighborhood’s problems began in the 1970s as Madrid’s democratic transition took place, spawning an extended urban development.
At the time, the Roma community lived in San Fermín, and the Government started building housing projects for low-income families. The developing community added problems of strikes and a lack of public services to ethnic friction.
In the 1980s, San Fermín became a pressure cooker.
“Heroine devastated many lives,” explained Montserrat. “There was a social blight that was decimating the homes and the population found it even more difficult to survive.”
Montserrat describes the problems of the neighborhood when she grew up as a teenager: “The streets were unpaved and entire families were living in houses measuring 40 square meters. The streets were full of drugs and alcoholism and there was rampant domestic abuse”.
In this distressing context, Montserrat began her activism at the San Fermín Project Association, a non-profit organization started in 1991 by a previous neighborhood association.
The group’s mission is to promote community development through cultural, social, labor, educational, environmental and sports programs, targeting residents from the slums of San Fermín and other under represented groups: the unemployed, immigrants, women, teenagers and infants, the disabled and ethnic minorities.
Montserrat studied philology at the University of Madrid, specializing in promoting education, equality, and prevention of illness and abuse against women. Living in San Fermín, her independent character could not ignore the neighborhood’s daily reality, prompting her to join the San Fermín Project Association.
She started as a receptionist and later volunteered to develop programs. The association also operates and manages a local youth hostel, located in a prefab house.
One of the most pressing problems in this proletarian slum is the mistreatment of women. The frustration, the lack of opportunities and the macho culture of this population without
resources makes this social blight a sad antagonist in communities like San Fermín.
Many of the workshops on gender and equality are directed to women. There has also been a growing immigrant population from Latin America and the Arab countries, further exacerbating women’s inequality. Montserrat’s workshops are based on “teaching all women the concept of equality so that it will trickle down to their children.”
Her first tool is co-education. She teaches courses on self-esteem, employment advice, legal orientation and new technologies. Montserrat has also organized cooking classes for men as a way to change the roles of a social model that she considers unfair.
Montserrat emphasizes the importance of looking at the world through the eyes of a woman.
One of her favorite strategies is to use humor. “We must have humor in our lives in order to both learn and have a good time,” she says. For Montserrat, the most important thing is being close to those who ask for her support.
women in the neighborhood to promote equal opportunities for women, subsidized by the Management of Equal Opportunities of the city of Madrid and by the San Fermín Project Association. They provide workshops on women’s history, mechanics and self-esteem, as well as seminars on the prevention of violence, health, and “any topic that we see relevant and that the women require,” she explains. (1000PeaceWomen).
Montserrat Sampere Martín: Coordinadora del proyecto de mujeres de la Asociación San Fermín
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