When I think of women that purposely “walk the talk” on lifting other women to a better place in life, my thoughts recall an amazing group that began as the “Dallas Thirty.” In 2004, a group of Dallas women CEO’s, civic leaders, philanthropists, doctors and attorneys made a journey to the Highlands of the poorest state in Mexico. After a flight to Mexico City they flew to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico. Upon arrival, the women traveled another two hours high into the mountains to the mystical city of San Cristobal de la Casas, Chiapas. The Dallas women came to the mountains to meet women that were direct descendants of the ancient Maya people. Although, most lived on dirt floors and their homes just dirt and straw, the women had dreams to be entrepreneurs. Who better to help these women make dreams become reality than a group of women that had worked hard and achieved their own? This gathering would be a meeting of women from two very different cultures.
The day after the arrival of the Dallas women, the meeting took place with interpreters going from English to Spanish and then to the Mayan dialect. Although, the women would seem to be from entirely different worlds, their common threads soon began to appear. A local organization would provide small loans for each Maya woman to start a small business but they needed loan capital. The organization hoped the Dallas women would feel it was a worthy cause and raise funds to provide the capital.
Each woman shared her vision for her business. One wanted to buy a pickup truck full of soda pop to sell in her village, another wanted to sell chickens, others wanted to buy thread to do beautiful embroidery. Soon, the questions turned to conversation, then conversation to just talking with friends. By end of day, the Dallas women were no longer strangers from afar. Before leaving the mountain, the decision was made to become investors to provide microfinance to these women. Everyone could have a small loan that would be paid back and then relent to the next woman.
They flew home and began telling the stories of the women and the dreams each shared and the response for support was overwhelming. Soon, these women living in extreme poverty would become “CEO’s” of chicken yards, tiny stores selling sodas and anything else they could dream to create. The “Dallas Thirty” grew to hundreds of supporters, and many incredible men joined the women’s movement along the way. No longer thirty women, they became known as the Chiapas Chicas. By the end of 2015, over $6.5 million had been raised and put to work in Chiapas and numerous other places in Latin America. The investment was now improving the lives of thousands of women and their families. The loans that were given and paid back many years ago could still today be providing hope to a new generation of young women.
Each woman was dedicated to providing that hand-up opportunity for women, most of whom they would never meet. Everyone knew that simply by the accident of where they were born, they were given opportunity that the women would never have…it was up to them. Successful women sharing, mentoring, receiving nothing in return but the knowledge that a woman thousands of miles away would have a chance to succeed. Their dedication was an extraordinary example of women lifting other women and creating ripples of change that could last a lifetime. Best of all, the women from Dallas gave the gift of demonstrating that we believe in you and we are empowering you…a gift most had never received in their entire life. In the end, everyone involved knew their own lives had been deeply enriched, a gift that was the greatest return on an investment anyone could have hoped to receive.
“WHEN WOMEN SUPPORT EACH OTHER, INCREDIBLE THINGS HAPPEN”