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Elida Caballero Cabrera

Women's Equality Center

United States

Elida is the Senior Director for Campaigns and Advocacy programs at the Women's Equality Center.
She is currently working on advancing reproductive rights in Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil, and Mexico. Her work aims to develop communications and advocacy strategies to advocate for expanded access to abortion care in each of these countries, with Honduras as a top priority to seize the momentum created by the recent legalization of emergency contraception in the country.
Elida hopes to make the most of this prestigious fellowship and extensive network, which is wonderfully positioned to support her work and strengthen her goal of more reproductive rights for women and girls who can't advocate for themselves, especially in places like Honduras.
She believes another world is possible, where we can all have equality, equity, inclusion, and peace if we commit ourselves to easing the pathways of empowerment for the future generation of women and girls.

Elida Caballero Cabrera

About
Me.

What is your story?

What drives your work?

I am an immigrant, a Panamanian lawyer who came to the United States to study for a year. I did a master's degree in International Law, with an emphasis in finance, and 19 years later, I'm still in Washington, DC.
I worked as a consular assistant at the Panamanian Embassy during my first year here. It was a fantastic experience, and I learned the basics of diplomacy, networking, and the challenges that sometimes are presented when you work for the government, regardless of the country.
When I came here, human rights were absent in my home country, hence my inclination to specialize in business. However, during my master's, I discovered the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. I fell in love with their work, human rights, and my discovery of being able to apply the law for human rights. It immediately clicked with me that I would never return to being a "regular" lawyer.
I found the academy because I could get a student loan to pay for school, but I needed additional income to sustain myself in an expensive city like DC. I was sure I could do it because even in law school, I always worked and studied simultaneously.

After graduating, and due to the economic crisis of 2008, I needed additional income, so I found a job as a hostess at the Cheesecake Factory. This was entirely out of my comfort zone, but I needed the money, and I have always been a people person, so I gave it a chance. I kept this part-time job for many more years because, believe it or not, it was such a great learning experience. My customer service skills expanded, and my organizing, patience, and empowerment grew extensively. It turns out hungry people can teach you a lot!

I later moved to work at the Mission of Panama to the Organization of American States. I could finally put into practice my human rights knowledge and diplomatic skills again. It was one of the best experiences in the whole world. The things I learned, the people I met, and the changes we achieved are part of the best memories I have. I worked on projects to eliminate corruption and tackle immigration, women's policies, and the budget.

My last work experience before finding my professional life goal of reproductive rights was at the World Bank. I got there to join a multilateral organization whose primary mission is to reduce poverty. I gained experience working in Latin America and South Asia with education and health programs. And finally, I was hired to work with the Executive Vice President and CEO of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
MIGA is a member of the World Bank Group, and its mission is to promote cross-border investment in developing countries by providing guarantees, like political risk insurance and credit enhancement, to investors and lenders for their projects, protecting them from
noncommercial risks.
It was a complete shift, but the final straw of experience was that I needed to understand how to combine effectiveness with social justice. I worked with many empowered women, which lifted me a lot and pushed me to find my real calling.

When the opportunity arose with an opening at the Center for Reproductive Rights, I knew I was ready to make that final shift. I had the experience, the connections, the drive, and the work ethic that, even with my lack of sexual and reproductive rights experience, were a driver big enough for me to learn what I needed to and start working. And that's precisely what I did.

My first countries and projects were challenging. I started working in Honduras and El Salvador. Both had total abortion bans. In addition, Honduras had a complete ban on emergency contraception, and El Salvador was wrongfully criminalizing women and sending them to prison for up to forty years in prison, for having obstetric emergencies, stillbirths, or miscarriages. It was a challenge that I took, convinced that I could help.

In my current role, I reflect on my experience, the lessons learned, and the next challenges. I have always been a complex and dedicated worker in all my positions, but challenges drive me, and it energizes me to think about how much women and girls will benefit from our work. And when I get frustrated, because in this work that happens a lot, I think about Teodora, Maria Teresa, or Imelda, some of the women we freed in El Salvador, and immediately remember why and for whom we do this work. It is not for me; it is for them.

Describe your biggest strength as a leader

My strengths as a leader are that I'm a people person and my work ethic. I enjoy connecting and fostering my relationships and networks, personally and professionally. I'm also straightforward, honest, and reliable, which are essential qualities to have if you want to build and strengthen trust. People must know they can believe in your word and your work.
And finally, I believe in leading by example. You can't expect others to do something a certain way if you do the opposite of what you ask.

Describe your biggest challenge as a leader

My biggest challenges as a leader are being able to find work-life balance, I’m also a bit of a workaholic, and struggling with flexibility.
WEC is a fully remote organization, and one of our principles is flexibility. That sometimes could be a challenge for me due to my old school "work until it is done" mentality.
My colleagues have told me I have improved but must continue working on that.

About the
Organization
and the Project.

Sector

Not-for-profit

Vision & Mission

The Women’s Equality Center provides strategic communications and campaign support to the reproductive health, rights, and justice field at all levels in key Latin American countries. It develops long-term, big-picture messaging frameworks around emerging issues and complements. It strengthens the work of national organizations via capacity-building grants, integrated policy and communications campaigns, and rapid-response operations. Since its founding, WEC has used a multi-faceted and fully integrated communications model to help national movements across Latin America create progressive narratives around women’s reproductive health and secure historic victories for abortion rights. Specific country-level campaigns are always tailored according to the country’s unique context, opportunities, and needs and are informed by national movement actors.

Year Founded

2017

No. of Employees

19

Years in the Organization

4 years

Annual Budget (USD)

$10,000,000

Geographical Area Served

Latin America and the Caribbean

Organizational /

Project Description

In Honduras on March 8, 2023, President Xiomara Castro legalized emergency contraception for everyone, ending a 13-year ban on the drug. This milestone comes after the fight of many local and international organizations-including WEC- working together to achieve it.
This incredible victory in a challenging context creates a pathway to advocate for reforms on other issues, such as abortion.
We want to develop a new campaign to push for expanded access to abortion care, seizing the momentum created by the recent legalization of emergency contraception.
We will conduct focus group research and landscape analysis to identify entry points, key decision-makers, the outlets and messages that influence them, and leading opposition actors.
We will also engage traditional media domestically and internationally to spotlight the injustices that result from the country’s harsh abortion law and build support for reforming it.

Why is this project important and timely?

What is the target population of your project? 

Women, girls and in general people of reproductive age in Honduras.

How will you know that you have achieved that impact? What data will you use to assess your impact?

As mentioned above, we will conduct focus group research and landscape analysis to identify entry points, key decision-makers, the outlets and messages influencing them, and leading opposition actors.
We will use this data as a baseline, but we will also use public opinion and policy changes as a way of measure as well.

How do you anticipate this unique leadership education impacting you personally? What new skills are you hoping too develop & grow through this experience?

This experience will help me grow professionally and personally by applying these newly acquired experiences to positively impact my current position and career pursuits and keep growing as a leader and a human.
This fellowship will expand my skills and thinking and prepare me to handle more responsibilities and new challenges.
Investing in professional and personal growth shows the aspiration of fulfilling our goals in life and is also a way to keep ourselves and others accountable.

Where would you like to see yourself professionally in the next 3 years?

This is a complicated question for me. I do love what I do, and I feel comfortable in my current position, but with growth comes change, and this position is training me for my next step.
In three years, I want to lead effectively, without fear, motivating and empowering people while always defending reproductive rights.
I don't know exactly how, but this fellowship will help me find that answer.

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