This essay was submitted by Thelma Lanuza in the HACIA 2022 Essay Competition. It is about women in society, and their role in Latin American countries.
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“There is no greater pillar of stability than a strong, free, and educated woman.” -Angelina Jolie.
The truth must be faced, there is no stability in Latin America and despite efforts to achieve it, Latin America suffers from underdevelopment, economic, political and social issues. In 2020 women represented 51% of the Latin American population and despite the female population slightly exceeding the male population, Latin American countries have failed to provide a girl’s most basic needs: resources, safety, and education.
Surprising rates of femicides found in Latin America show the deficiency of Latin American Countries when it comes to providing basic safety for women. According to a 2000 report by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), about “5,000 women” are victims of murder in horror killings. Furthermore, rates of femicide differ depending on the specific country, but of the countries with the top 25 highest femicide rates, 50% are in Latin America, with number one being El Salvador. Not to mention that many Latin American countries find themselves in poor conditions, and as a result provide deficient education.
Women in Latin America are suffering daily. In Latin America, women are economically unstable or dependent on their partner to sustain them. Women’s vulnerability can be seen as a consequence of the lack of education, including surprising rates of teen pregnancies that prevent young girls from pursuing a career, and a prosperous future. In fact, Latin America has the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world, with about 18 % of births to teenage mothers under 20, a figure that tends to consist most often of adolescents with lower incomes and with lower levels of education.
I have a strong desire to make an impact in the world. I firmly believe that anyone has the capacity to change the outlooks and results of anything, especially when it comes to eradicating injustice. I feel that the problems women face in Latin American countries are dire and unquestionable. Living in the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, I have been able to witness the damage caused to women by the persistent lack of educational opportunities. It has always drawn my attention to see girls my age with babies in their arms, to see the extreme poverty conditions many families live in, and most importantly, I have been able to see the indignant lack of concern shown by a heartless dictator regarding these issues. In 2018, a political tumult arose in my home country. At this point hope seemed low: my mom had to close her gelato shop, many other businesses were closing, my friends were moving away and school closed. When hopes seemed at their lowest COVID struck and it was then that I knew that things would never be the same for my country.
Quarantine allowed me to act upon one of my biggest passions to date. My oldest sister, Veronica, noticed the same things I did when it came to women’s inequality and that is why we decided to found a chapter of She’s the First at our school. So far, we have been able to provide a full year of college to a girl studying at a university in Managua, Nicaragua. We have provided about 500 books to a girl’s school library, and we keep visiting the same school every 15 days to tutor the girls. It has always provided me great satisfaction to see how simple actions requiring great initiative can have such a great impact on the lives of so many.
As for my plans for the future, I plan to support women in Latin America through implementing efforts to relieve countries fromm dictatorship, provide women with education, encourage countries to implement programs to help women in extreme poverty , and lastly, keep creating awareness about the issues to encourage others to join the cause and start small initiatives like I did. Someone who inspires me is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who transitioned from being an ordinary New York Citizen to a recognized and impactful politician. She has shown the world that anyone can make a difference and anyone can change the world for the better.
In conclusion, Latin America lacks initiative and leadership, however, it has the people, it has the resources, and the ability to prosper just like any other region. As a simple citizen I feel that I have managed to effect positive change in the lives of a few people, and time will tell if I am able to broaden my current boundaries and bring significant change to the world.