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Social entrepreneur Maria Pacheco joined the podcast to discuss the powerful connections she's seen carry people through the COVID-19 crisis.

Power to Empower: Maria Pacheco on the Importance of Connection

November 2020 – Maria Pacheco is a Biologist, Social Entrepreneur, and founder of Wakami. Maria started Wakami in Guatemala after witnessing the systemic damage caused by the country’s civil war, which lasted over 30 years. Wakami is a multi-faceted organization that not only trains artisans in rural communities but connects their work to larger global markets for long-term economic prosperity. Since its inception in 2006, Wakami has helped economically empower more than 500 women and a number of small businesses in rural Guatemala. Maria spoke with Vital Voices President and CEO, Alyse Nelson, about Wakami and the impact of COVID-19.

When the pandemic hit Guatemala, Maria feared for the safety of the communities supported by the organization. As was the case in many industries, the onset of COVID-19 caused a completely unprecedented halt in sales and movement for Wakami. Maria speaks of the resilience of the communities she worked with, as well as the resourcefulness that helped Wakami regain its footing amid the pandemic. Wakami’s sewing center was used to create masks for women and their families. Regenerative agriculture, an already existing project for Wakami, was utilized to address new food security concerns.

In their discussion, we learn that Maria’s understanding of leadership is heavily influenced by collaboration. Maria supports that collaboration, teamwork at large, is not something we can just participate in, we have to believe in the power of it. Maria also emphasizes the utility in choosing positive energy over anger, even in difficult circumstances. In this way, Maria supports that women lead differently, and that leading differently in itself is “a privilege all of us have.”

This podcast series is inspired by the Vital Voices: 100 Women Using their Power to Empower – edited by Alyse Nelson with artwork by Gayle Kabaker and published by Assouline.


Listen to her episode here:


This post was written by Annalysse Mason.