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Leading With Care: How Women Around the World are Inspiring Businesses, Empowering Communities, and Creating Opportunity by Mary Cantando, 2009.

When I first began reading this book, it appeared to be a simple collection of good works andsuccess stories pulled from the files of CARE. However, Mary Cantando has actually provided a significant look at the ways that small steps can lead to huge changes in communities across the globe. The focus of the text is on women, which is no accident, as CARE is an organization that works with women around the world to inspire individuals, create opportunities and empower communities. From nomadic tribes in Mali to women’s professional business organizations in North America, there is significant diversity among the women whose stories Cantando has included and the various methods they have employed to make substantial positive changes in the lives and communities in which they work and live.

However, while the stories included in LEADING WITH CARE: How Women Around the World are Inspiring Businesses, Empowering Communities, and Creating Opportunity are varied and come from around the globe, the commonalities are what truly stand out. Community focus, supportive solidarity, empowerment, hope, and encouragement are key components throughout each woman’s journey, as is the development of a culture of trust within the collective women’s groups that form and work together to create a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

From creating a small collective where each woman contributes as little as five cents a week into a communal savings that can then be loaned out in small increments that allow for the purchase of materials to weave mats to sell for a profit for enough to buy a mule and a cart to create a transport business to teaching women to be health advocates, each change is based on the local needs of the community and because the change is self-driven, is managed in a culturally relevant manner.

Each story is one in which a woman or group of women create social change in ways that begin with steps so small to be basically non-threatening to the status quo, but even where there is discomfit from the initial changes being made, acceptance comes more readily with the realization of positive community impact for all. “When men witness women creating profitable businesses like poultry farms, they begin to see those women in a different light” (174).

But while the stories of these amazing women who are creating changes in their communities are in themselves uplifting and filled with hope and encouragement, Cantando doesn’t stop there. Instead, at the end of each section of the book, she provides an opportunity for the reader to reflect and to consider, not only the accomplishments of these women whose stories she has shared, but her own journey thus far, where she stands on her own path and the challenges and opportunities that await her and the many ways we can each think big, act incrementally, and create significant change.

Reviewed by: Sharon Skinner

Sharon is an active member of Grant Professionals Association and currently serves as the GPA National Board Secretary. She is currently employed by the City of Mesa as their Grant Coordinator. In the past twelve years, she was instrumental in growing the Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) Early Childhood Development program funding from $6 million to over $15 million.

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