“Education is transformation. Through education, we can provide women with opportunities to change their lives,” says 2016 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellow Frissia Monsivais.
In 2014, Frissia started the First Leadership Center at a university in Mexico. This program promoted empowerment and the growth of interpersonal skills among women in college. Following her YLAI fellowship in 2016, Frissia switched gears to create The We.Men Foundation Mexico, a similar organization that includes men and women working together for female empowerment.
Frissia has worked closely with the Inter-American Development Bank and other organizations across Latin America to raise awareness of female empowerment. Frissia has been doing incredible work since her YLAI Fellowship, and the YLAI Network is excited to interview her about why transforming gender equality is important and how emerging entrepreneurs should take the leap.
YLAI is the Department of State’s flagship program to advance inclusive economic prosperity in the Western Hemisphere. The YLAI Fellowship Program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and implemented in 2023 by IREX.
Why is women’s empowerment so important?
In 2021 I had the opportunity to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris and be part of a roundtable to discuss women’s issues in Mexico. Her message was about women’s liberation. “When you lift up the economic status of women, you lift up the economic status of families, of neighborhoods, communities, and — and all of society benefits,” says Vice President Harris, so long as women are given the opportunity.
How did The We.Men Foundation Mexico get started and what are the organization’s goals?
In 2014, I was a professor at a university, and I started the First Leadership Center because I saw the vast need to channel energy into students’ needs. We began with initiatives to give back to communities, fundraising and working with them along the way to implement community events and donations.
In 2016, I had the opportunity to be a part of the YLAI Fellowship, and after YLAI, I had a completely different approach, changed my business model, and rebranded to create The We.Men Foundation Mexico. I was on a panel discussing female empowerment with only about four or five men in the room. One asked why we weren’t thinking about including men in our strategy. This is where the idea was born, and now we work together as a team to empower women. We’re currently working with Indigenous women and mentors who are guiding and creating customized programs for universities and companies.
We want to become a reference for other organizations and raise awareness of the importance of having and working with women to make them stronger. We were chosen among 20 institutions to work with the Inter-American Development Bank to implement their methodology and create programs to apply for their funds. You can do great things if you’re able to connect globally.
We focus on issues such as financial literacy. For example, many women still have to ask permission to withdraw money from bank accounts. We aim to work with men so that they can understand the importance of these issues and everyone’s role.
How did your YLAI fellowship help your business?
YLAI has been a dream come true because I’ve had the opportunity to connect with almost 1,000 entrepreneurs; some of these people become family and really good friends who aren’t afraid to share or ask for help. You can connect to these people, build amazing relationships, and feel inspired because these people are just doing extraordinary things. It’s not easy to find a program like this where you can really learn from the other people involved. I wouldn’t change my experience for anything and would do it again if I could.
Do you have any advice for young leaders?
I would encourage young leaders to explore the fellowship if they want to make a difference. Entrepreneurship is the way to go. The sooner you get involved with a variety of companies, the faster you’ll learn how to start your own business. Go for it, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We grow with challenges, not when we have everything available.
Thank you to Frissia Monsivais for allowing us to highlight your remarkable work. If her story inspires you, we encourage you to apply for our fellowship program and join the YLAI Network of entrepreneurs. Click here to read more success stories from our fellows.