Women Help Women: Convoy Heads to Central America

`BETWEEN women there are no boundaries.'' That's the motto of a diverse group of women giving aid to Central America - face to face, woman to woman. Called the Women's Convoy to Central America, the bevy of 70 women from all over the United States is driving 21 trucks, buses, and ambulances filled with 13 tons of supplies for women's groups in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

The participants are ``women standing in solidarity and women wanting to work for change,'' says Louise Bowditch, national coordinator for the convoy. They have been brought together mostly by word of mouth through various feminist, Central American solidarity, veteran, and other networks. Ages vary, as do their political and religious backgrounds, says Ms. Bowditch.

Economic and political turmoil as well as war have left many people in Central America with inadequate food, housing, health care, employment, and education, organizers of the convoy say. They hope to bring attention to the needs of women in crisis in both Central America and North America, to show that they have common hardships and need each one another's help inside and outside their communities and countries.

The Women's Convoy is part of the ``caravan movement'' started last June with the Vietnam Veterans Peace Convoy to Nicaragua. Several more aid convoys followed. This is the first one organized and led by women. Grants from various feminist, religious, and peace groups as well as individual donations are financing the trip.

Because the convoy is working with established women's groups (a Guatemalan widows' group and a Mexican seamstresses' union, for example), organizers are con-fident the aid will reach the needy.

In fact, all the material being delivered has been specifically requested: sewing machines, thread, medicine, contraceptives, school supplies, diapers, tools, typewriters, toys, photographic equipment (to document human rights abuses), and more.

``It's essential we know what they're asking for,'' said Judy Tracy, who attended the send-off for 12 women from outside a battered women's shelter in Boston. ``We're respectful that way.''

``The first convoy paved the way,'' she added, ``It's a journey of promise and hope for peace in Central America.''

Beth Koehler of Portland, Maine, says that being aware of the need for peace and social justice spurred her to join the convoy. ``It was time to do something in a big way,'' she says.

The regional legs of the convoy from four sites convened in Austin, Texas, over the weekend. After several days of orientation, they planned to proceed to the Mexican border. The trip is scheduled to end July 10; the women will fly back to the States, having donated the convoy vehicles along the way.

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