Learning Exchange: From Communities to Institutions: Working with People to (Trans)Form Law

In July 2019,  the Legal Empowerment Network and Centro de Estudios para la Equidad y Gobernanza en los Sistemas de Salud (CEGSS) hosted a learning exchange for members from across Central America and Mexico.

A total of 24 participants representing 18 organizations from 6 countries gathered in Antigua, Guatemala for the exchange, which went by the title “Desde Las Comunidades Hasta Las Instituciones: Trabajando Para Que Las Personas (Trans)Formen El Derecho” [From Communities to Institutions: Working with People to (Trans)Form Law”]

These 18 organizations take on a variety of critical justice issues: from women’s rights and gender-based violence, to environmental justice, migrant populations’ rights, and access to healthcare, among other. But they are united by their commitment to using legal empowerment approaches.


Over the course of seven days, the participants collectively discussed how to impact decision-making processes, public policies, and institutions across a variety of issues from the grassroots level.

The week included sessions on power mapping and strategies for promoting systemic change, discussions around critical legal empowerment methods and strategies, field visits to learn about the work of community defenders for the right to health, as well as an opportunity for participants to workshop individualized work plans, collaborate, and outline possible next steps in the region—and more.

This was the first Legal Empowerment Network learning activity dedicated exclusively to Central America and Mexico. It was a cornerstone event that will enable the continued cultivation of a community of practice within the region.

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“… we feel very fortunate to have welcomed colleagues from the region in Guatemala and to have contributed to creating this learning opportunity that we hope can be a catalyst of change in different countries. We’ve had the chance to get to know each other and talk about the challenges that we face in the fight for legal empowerment, to learn to strengthen the work that we do, and to keep in touch in order to build a global movement for the enjoyment of everybody’s rights.”

Walter Flores

Centro de Estudios para la Equidad y Gobernanza en los Sistemas de Salud (CEGSS), Guatemala

“This exchange has fulfilled all my expectations. It has contributed enormously to my knowledge and skills. I am very happy because I am taking back with me a lot of information and knowledge to share with the communities that we work with, as well as with my other colleagues.”

Felicita Valoes Lainez Dávila

Fundación para el Desarrollo Comunitario (Fundecom), Nicaragua

“It was a space for the articulation of wisdoms between grassroots organizations that equipped me with knowledge and experiences coming from our day to day struggles. I got to know, learnt and generated new networks for my daily work in the fight for equality between men and women and the prevention of gender-based violence from an advocacy in public policy perspective… I would definitely recommend continuing weaving these spaces in the fight for human rights.”

Edwin Reyes

Centro Integral de Atención a las Mujeres CIAM Cancún A.C., Mexico

“This exchange has allowed me to acquire basic tools to improve my work at the organization… I really value these learnings and I am grateful for the opportunity to come to this exchange and share valuable experiences that have strengthened my person and I hope will strengthen my organization when I get back.”

Diana Marcela Villatoro Sánchez

Red de Mujeres Jóvenes de Choluteca, Honduras

“Getting to know first hand diverse experiences of human rights defenders and the impact that they have achieved in their community was a gift that has helped me to bring back ideas regarding projects that I am developing in my country.”

Juan Carlos Carrillo

Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental, Mexico

“This exchange has given me the opportunity to get to know different legal empowerment experiences from Central America and Mexico from different points of view: civil society organizations, victims’ groups, indigenous communities, and youth groups… I have acquired new knowledge and tools for our work, and the conviction that I have the support of other organizations part of the network that are doing similar work and fighting similar struggles in different contexts”.

Natalia Pérez Cordero

Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación A.C., Mexico


  1. Andrea Guadalupe Gonzalez Bautista y Guillermina Edith Juárez Leyva, Instituto de Liderazgo Simone de Beauvoir A.C. (Mexico) – @andreagb
  2. Claudia A. Cruz López, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (Mexico) – @claucruz
  3. Claudia Pinto y Maria Elena Beltrán Bautista, Fundación para la justicia y el estado democrático de derecho A.C. (Honduras; El Salvador) – @claudializbeth
  4. Diana Marcela Villatoro Sanchez, Red de mujeres jovenes de Choluteca (Honduras) – @dimar
  5. Edwin Alfredo Reyes Tuz, Centro Integral de Atención a las Mujeres CIAM Cancún A.C. (Mexico) – @edwinrt
  6. Esli Cruz y Sabrina Sanchez, Global Brigades (Honduras) – @eslicru, @sabrinasanchez
  7. Felicita Valoes Lainez Davila, Fundación para el Desarrollo Comunitario -FUNDECOM– (Nicaragua) – @elicitalainez
  8. Fernando Jerez y Rosaura Medina, Centro de Estudios para la Equidad y Gobernanza en los Sistemas de Salud -CEGSS- (Guatemala) – @ferjep
  9. Fidelina Mena Corrales, Asociación Centro de Derechos Laborales sin Fronteras de Costa Rica (Costa Rica) – @fidecdl
  10. Juan Carlos Carrillo Fuentes, Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental -CEMDA- (Mexico) – @juancarlos
  11. Luis Alberto López Martínez, Comité de Familiares de Migrantes Desaparecidos y Fallecidos de El Salvador -COFAMIDE- (El Salvador) – @luisalbertolopez
  12. María del Carmen García Jiménez, Escuela para Defensoras en Derechos Humanos y Ambientales Benita Galeana A.C. (Mexico) – @benitagaleana
  13. Matilde Pérez Romero y Natalia Pérez Cordero, Fundar Centro de Análisis e Investigación A.C. (Mexico) – @matilde
  14. Paloma Susana Chavira Chávez, Alianza Sierra Madre, A.C. -ASMAC- (Mexico) – @makawi
  15. Pedro Antonio Martínez González, Grupo de Monitoreo Independiente de El Salvador -GMIES- (El Salvador)
  16. Vilma Haydee Lázaro y Vilma Maritza Gramajo Estrada, Asociación Reconstruyendo Vidas -Asorevi- (Guatemala) – @viviasorevi
  17. Viviana Patal, Women’s Justice Initiative -WJI- (Guatemala) – @vivianapatal
  18. Zonia Zacarías, Consejo de Mujeres Indígenas y Biodiversidad (Guatemala) – @zezcus