I started my path in the international development field during my first year of university, working as an intern at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Venezuela. My experience alongside Colombian refugees in my country opened my eyes to the stark reality of displacement and war. Ironically, my country faces a similar situation nowadays. Venezuelans represent the highest rate of migrants and refugees in the Americas. More than 4 million have left the country since 2016; an exodus comparable to the migrant and refugee crisis caused by the civil war in Syria.
“I want to I can” (Yo quiero Yo puedo)
Being one more number in a statistic, I moved to Mexico last year, and I began looking for ways I could add value to this country that was receiving me as a migrant. I am a political scientist by training and a policymaker; throughout the past 15 years, I have held diverse positions in the foreign affairs and the global governance areas. Because of this, I wanted to use my primary area of expertise. Coming from Venezuela, it could appear that the local context would be familiar to me, but living here I have realized that despite many shared aspects of our history, the challenges we are facing are tremendously diverse.
In my own journey to develop and expand my views beyond my former career as a diplomat, I discovered Yo quiero Yo puedo (which means “I want to I can”), a Mexican not-for-profit organization dedicated to facilitating development in a framework of gender equality, so that people can become agents of change in their own lives, families and communities.
One of the development challenges that worries me the most is women´s lives and the macho culture, especially child marriage in some communities in the country. Despite being illegal in Mexico, forced marriage is part of the customs and practices of many communities. According to figures from Save the Children, more than 6,800,000 Mexican women today were married between the ages of 12 and 17 or began to live in union at that age.
With more than 30 years of experience, Yo quiero Yo puedo has changed the lives of more than 20 million people. As part of their "Help them to not reach the altar" campaign, I began collaborating with them to raise awareness about the stark reality of child marriage in the country, a situation that is particularly pronounced in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Hidalgo, Chiapas and Oaxaca, where the rights to education, health and a life free of violence of almost 300,000 girls are currently violated having been forced into marriage, most of them sold, and to an older spouse.
My experience in this NGO has been primarily in the Communications and Partnerships areas. I have found a very proactive and open-minded team within an environment that takes advantage of technology and social media platforms to multiply the gender equality message. After having worked in the foreign affairs field for more than a decade, I have found this experience enormously enriching because it has brought me closer to the realities that these girls and women live every day.
Working in a Communications and Partnerships role has been challenging as I learn how to advocate for a cause using new approaches, including social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). For instance, one of my tasks has been “hunting influencers” from diverse backgrounds and inviting them to join our campaign (and believe me, it is surprising how much it can increase people´s awareness). Other responsibilities are related to researching, writing and providing input into thought multimedia products.
Inspired by new approaches
At the mid-stage of my career, I find myself inspired by an environment of independent thinking. In 2018, I was selected as a Policy Leader Fellow at the European University Institute in Italy, and also, I have been contributing as an opinion video-columnist with Subrayado.mx (a Mexican news agency). The academy and the media have given me a space to express my own perspectives and at the same time be confronted by new approaches and understandings that I had not previously considered.
As a political scientist, policymaker, and former diplomat, I would like to use new platforms to expand cross-cultural understanding of the challenges that we Latin Americans are facing and do so in a way that is useful to policymakers and academics worldwide. As part of this adventure, I have recently written and edited the book "Pan Americanism in the Brazilian Foreign Policy (1902-1912)".
As a final advice: Do not be afraid to jump from one field to another (academia, media, government, non-governmental organizations) building your own bridges; just stay focused on your core interests (human rights, environment, gender, democracy) and never ever betray your values.
To learn more about Yo quiero Yo puedo’s campaign, visit www.yoquieroyopuedo.org.mx/en/child-marriage, and follow us on Facebook @YoquieroYopuedoONG and Twitter @YoquieroYopuedo
My book "Pan Americanism in the Brazilian Foreign Policy (1902-1912)" is available on Amazon.com
You can watch my video-column Enlace Global at www.Subrayado.mx