Alajuela, Costa Rica
Founded in 1986 in San Ramon, Alajuela, Costa Rica, MUSADE (Mujeres Unidas en Salud y Desarrollo—Women United in Health and Development) was formed by a group of women who wanted a space to address what they saw as the common problems facing women in their community—machismo, violence and family health issues. They rented a space for their first few years of operation, but distrust and uneasiness soon mounted in the surrounding community about a group of women working together without men, and they were forced out of their space. They began saving money to buy their own house and office space, which they were able to do a few years ago.
Today, MUSADE provides shelter and support for women escaping situations of violence, but that is only one part of their work. They support small business programs for women artisans, and sell their products in a storefront below their offices. They run a childcare program and a resource library, both of which encourage and enable women to pursue educational opportunities that would otherwise be impossible. Last year, they launched a “Healthy Living” program for senior citizens, which provides holistic health education and promotes life free from violence for people of all ages. They are also active in efforts to resist the Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), which was recently ratified in Costa Rica despite massive public opposition.
MUSADE's mission is "to achieve the holistic development of women in the familial, economic, political, cultural and social context" with a vision to be “an autonomous, non-profit, community-based organization that promotes equality and self-development of women through processes of human and technical training, assistance and empowerment, fostering in its members values such as organization, compromise, solidarity and equality.”
MUSADE’s primary operational areas are organization and local power with a gender perspective, holistic health and combating family violence, and community economy. The group's current activities, aside from those mentioned above, include trainings for women heads of household, teen mothers, and survivors of domestic violence; legal and psychological counseling and support for women survivors of family violence; community organizing around issues of violence against women; coordinating a community recycling program, a project to construct the collective memory of the lives of women; and training and development of popular defenders (defensoras populares).
MUSADE also conducts programs on communal and women’s health, including organizing women’s health fairs, participating in national and international health networks, offering information on preventive healthcare, and coordinating with local health facilities and practitioners to guarantee quality attention, promotion, and preventive services for women.
The group has operated for its entire tenure without government funding, raising funds through providing services such as public trainings, and supervision of a daycare center for children of women working in factories. Some of MUSADE’s achievements since its inception include: the development of a program to respond to complaints filed in cases of sexual and domestic violence, including legal consulting and accompanying women to court; a program working with school children to prevent family violence and to construct a culture of peace and equity; and the consolidation of a network of women micro-entrepreneurs.
MUSADE is part of a number of national, regional, and international networks, including The Inter-sectoral Network of the West for Non-violence, The National Network of Non-violence Networks, The Coordination of Popular Health Projects, The Autonomous Costa Rican Communal Movement, The Regional Committee for Promotion of Community Health of Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean, and The Central American Federation of Communal Organizations.
The Global Fund has awarded $63,000 in grants so far to support the tremendous work of MUSADE.