Clarissa Rios and her friends celebrating life
By Clarissa Rios
I think everything starts at home, my mother was always a strong figure of leadership and strength in the house and my father was never above or below her. I think this environment of equality and balance in the house was important for me seeing gender inequality as a strange concept. Moreover, having the chance to study abroad and meeting new people, cultures and different scenarios made me realized that gender inequality had different shapes, levels and faces of horror.
I read more and more about the conditions of women in Middle East, Africa, South East Asia and thought that we should at least talk about these issues among friends in order to make them aware that different type of atrocities where happening to women in other parts of the world just for the fact of being women. All these reading also made me reflect about my own experience in Latin America and Europe and I started realizing that there were many things that were not right and that perhaps I should have reacted in another way in retrospective.
It is not ok that my butt has been grabbed without my consent by strangers walking on the streets of Peru, Finland, Sweden, Australia and Germany. It is not ok that my previous boss in Sweden asked me if I had a boyfriend and if I was planning to have children during my job interview. It is not ok that my best friends have told me that they have suffered some degree of sexual aggression during their life time. It is not ok that one of them was touched by his science teacher while receiving private lessons; it is not ok that another one was attacked at the door of her house and because she fought the guy she was not raped. It is not ok to be 11 years old and be lied to go to a place and be forced to performed sexual acts and have that experience hunting you for years shaping your personality and you future. I think that if you ask around and build and environment of trust you will find that gender inequality is closer to you than you thought. I believe that there is much to do and it is in our hands to do something about it, because if it is not you… who will do it? And if it is not now, …then for how long these things will keep occurring?.
I am lucky enough to always talk like a parrot and share my ideas and projects with friends and strangers. That is how I and a group of fantastic women (Enma, Carmen, Mariella and Blanca) have started a project for re-writing the current women’s role models in Latin America: “Ekpapalek Mujeres”. For that we are going to schools and sharing our academic and personal life stories (obstacles and achievements) with young girls and boys. We also offer workshops for igniting their entrepreneur genius teaching them how to do mini-business with ornamental plants and, for having a broader knowledge about sexual reproduction, their sexual rights and how to recognize and what to do in case of sexual aggressions; we also offer a workshop in sexual health. Finally, we also invited them to form a “women’s collective” where they can meet and talk about the status of women in their community. Using a series of talks and workshops presented by professional women we aim to empower Latin American women by igniting young girl’s professional curiosity and desire to venture to new horizons of personal and professional development.
It is in our hands to be the change we want to see in the world …