“I discovered that there are women fighters all around the world.”

Sandra Xiquín from Guatemala, who featured in our ‘Unlikely Entrepreneur?’ campaign, visited the Netherlands in March. She was invited to speak at a high profile event on women entrepreneurs, at which Queen Maxima of the Netherlands was also speaking. Here, she tells us about her visit.

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Written by Emma Langbridge

How did you feel about your invitation to Amsterdam?

I was really happy and surprised.  I couldn’t believe it!  I was happy to share my story on the other side of the world.

 

What were your first impressions of the Netherlands?

When I arrived I was surprised because the weather and the air were so different, there was a very cold breeze!  Everything looked different - the cars, the streets, the houses.  I was told there were cars that don’t use gasoline anymore and that they are electric – I couldn’t believe it!  Getting off the airplane, knowing I was going to a big event with lots of important people really hit me hard. 

 

Tell us about the people you met.

I had heard that Queen Maxima was going to be at the event.  Sitting in that room I couldn’t believe that I was looking at the Queen.  I never thought I would see a Queen in person. 

Meeting other women entrepreneurs from other countries really inspired me.  I think we all enjoyed sharing our experiences and seeing so many parallels.  We all had so much in common and I discovered that there are women fighters around the world.

I was particularly inspired by another female entrepreneur from India.  Despite all the obstacles in her path, she keeps supporting her region through educating women.

There was another woman entrepreneur from The Gambia who I felt a real connection with.  She has many other women coming to her for advice, in the same way that I do in Guatemala. Women from outside our cooperative come to me and ask me how they can follow my example and succeed.

 

Tell us about the event.

It was a lovely experience because I was able to share my experience with people I didn’t know.  I told the audience that I want more women to have the same opportunities as me.

For us in Guatemala, setting up a cooperative and becoming independent meant we could create our own value.  The impact of our cooperative goes beyond the 450 women members, as we all share our income with our families and communities. One of the goals that I have for the cooperative is to strengthen it so we can bring in more women members from these communities, who can then benefit and increase their earnings.

At the event I imagined a closed box, which I will take back to Guatemala.  I will take the box into the communities and only there will I open it.  Butterflies will fly out and I want each woman to have one. These butterflies symbolise the strength of each woman. I want these butterflies to fly as far as they can.

Sandra and her colleague Samara in The Hague

 

What will you tell your sons when you get home?

I will tell them that, thanks to God, I have had the opportunity to leave Guatemala and fight for other women, not just for myself. I want them to learn to value work and the value of a woman.

I will tell them everything about my visit.  From getting off the plane, to the event and the people I met, to visiting CARE Netherland’s offices, which I never imagined I would do.  I always tell my children what CARE is doing. 

“I believe that there are angels put in our path and that CARE is one of them.”

I will also tell them that I went to the square of Amsterdam and bought them clothes!

 

How do you feel about your story inspiring thousands of people? [Sandra’s film has been viewed by hundreds of thousands on Facebook]

It makes me happy that these women are motivated by my story and that they want to share it with others to motivate them.

I don’t want more women to suffer like I did and to hear people tell them that they can’t do something because they are a woman.  I want them to be motivated by my story of being able to overcome everything.

I would like to thank all the people who have responded to my film for believing in me.  The comments really motivated and strengthened me. It gives me more energy to work for more women so that they can move forward with their families.  Trusting in God, nothing is impossible, everything is possible.

 

What message do you have for other women wanting to set up their own enterprises?

First of all, it’s never too late to start.  Get rid of the fear and have confidence in yourself.  With this confidence, and working together, women can achieve great things.  And don’t be afraid to fail - mistakes should be seen as positive experiences that we can all learn from.

Trusting and investing in women is worth it, you can really see the benefits. Investing in one woman is investing in many more.  Trusting in women means improving the lives of families, and especially children, improving their quality of life.

 

What do your family think about your success? 

They are very impressed because they never thought this would happen.  They didn’t believe in me to start with.  They kept saying that women can’t do this.  Now they see that I can and they support me.  My mother tells me that were my father alive, he would be proud of me now.

[Sandra spoke at The Power of Partnerships: Making Finance Work for Women Entrepreneurs” event in March 2018.  It was an international event organized by Dutch development bank FMO, Better Future and the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.]

To watch a film about Sandra, click here

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