Women Who Inspire

Women Who Inspire

A Conversation with Magda Sofia Pérez Caballero, Glasswing’s Country Director for Honduras

Magda Sofia Pérez Caballero knew from an early age that she was going to get an education. Her plans to study weren’t just a result of her curiosity and love of learning, although those certainly motivated her too.

The main reason she pursued an education was that her mom encouraged her to.

“My mom would say to me, ‘Look, you have to study, you have to be independent, you don’t have to wait for a man to give you everything.’ That was my education. That puts you in charge,” Magda said. 

Magda is Glasswing’s Country Director for Honduras. She leads a team of 120 people across the country, with offices in the capital of Tegucigalpa and northwest city of San Pedro Sula. Because she has been an inspiration to hundreds of Glasswing staff, volunteers, and students, we spoke with her recently to find out who, in turn, inspires her.

Finding inspiration in women with drive

The answer: her mom, Zoreyda, who raised Magda and her four siblings in Tegucigalpa, and who inspired Magda with her encouragement, creativity, and tenacity. 

And her aunt, Alma, who earned a scholarship to study in Tegucigalpa—and then additional scholarships to study in France. She received a master’s degree and two doctorates, in literature and theater.

And women like Gladys Lanza, the Honduran activist who, as the coordinator of the women’s rights movement Visitación Pandilla, publicly advocated for human rights. She was sentenced to imprisonment for defending a woman who had spoken out against a government official.

“I admire these women who have a microphone in front of them, who have the courage to speak up. They have their hands in the air, defending women’s rights. For me, they are an example,” Magda said.

You might have noticed a trend. Magda is inspired by women who act, speak out, and empower.

We’ll include just one more example. One of the programs Magda oversees in Honduras is Jóvenes Líderes de Impacto (JLI), which is supported by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. JLI provides young people ages 15 to 22 with a first work experience, a monthly stipend for six months, and life skills training. A young woman in the program, Jennifer, who lives in San Pedro Sula, used her stipend to save enough money to buy a horse and a cart. With those, she started her own business selling vegetables. 

Programs that empower

Stories like Jennifer’s are at the heart of what Magda loves about her work. “We are an honest organization that does the best we can for the participants we work with,” she said. “That’s what I like, to influence in something positive and provide the best to participants. For me, that’s the most important thing: what we’re providing to them as a development organization.”

As part of SanaMente, two women meet to discuss mental health in Honduras.

Magda and her team do that through a number of programs. Besides JLI, another major initiative is SanaMente, Glasswing’s flagship mental health program that is supported by The Audacious Project. The homicide rate in Honduras has fallen in recent years but has been among the world’s highest. Those who are affected by violence and the trauma it causes include public-health providers, law enforcement, government officials, and the educational community. SanaMente gives them mental health care training to help with trauma management and the reduction of risk factors that lead to violence and trauma.

“We are empowering service providers,” Magda said. “We are trying to make access to mental health care sustainable in our government institutions, so they can serve more, and more people—all the citizens who come to these institutions. We listen to them to understand what their experiences have meant to them. Because, how ugly it is to live in fear.”

Youth Festival, Honduras
Youth Festival, Honduras

Youth development and mental health are two critical services in Honduras. Another is education. Glasswing provides support to 14 schools throughout the country, implementing academic and extracurricular programming to help students learn, engage, and connect with volunteers from their communities. Those volunteers become role models who motivate students to study—just as Magda’s mom did for her.

“The work that we do continuously, systematically, in the educational centers is so valuable for the teachers who work there, who see the change,” Magda said. “We are contributing to the access of the kids. And we are contributing to their survival.” 

The programs are so popular that enrollment has reached capacity at some schools. Children in the neighborhood tell each other about the clubs and activities, and soon, their friends are joining too. 

The road ahead

Magda recognizes that there is much more to do, but, like her mother’s advice, the opportunity to help is a source of motivation. 

A Honduran girl participates in Glasswing clubs.
A Honduran girl participates in Glasswing clubs.

“Just as I had women along my path who encouraged me to move forward, when I see women younger than me, with a couple of words—even if they’re not asking me for advice—I try to motivate them. I tell them, ‘Look, I got ahead. Don’t leave yourself to the will of others. You’re independent. You can make your own decisions. No one else decides for you.’”

This article was published on January 25, Honduran Women’s Day, a day that commemorates Honduran women receiving the right to vote in 1955. Gracias a las mujeres hondureñas por su fuerza y determinación.