13 MAY 2020
Training to be a leader requires: always working as a team, dedicating time to promote rights, changing paradigms and sharing learning, factors that require a lot of activity outside the home, where contact with other people is key. However, under quarantine, the girls and adolescent leaders had to suspend their activities, following the recommendations to stay at home. During this time, they take advantage of the tools and skills that they cultivated with years of dedication to raising their voices, to share their experiences, to offer advice to those who need it most, and to get the best out of this temporary social distancing.
Amelia (19) lives in a rural community in Jalapa, Guatemala. Her family consists of 9 siblings, her father, her stepmother and her grandmother. The absence of a stable subsistence income was exacerbated by the period of quarantine, which hit hard on Amelia’s family economy. Amelia
As a spokesperson for her community, she maintains a strong capacity and commitment in promoting the rights and equality of girls, so she works hard with other volunteers and the community. Amelia says: “My life is more beautiful when I go out”.
However, despite her recent graduation as a pre-primary teacher, she is unable to find work in the community, so in the last few months she has added to her daily duties the support of her father in the production and sale of traditional sweets, both in shops and visiting private homes.
Speaking about the family business, Amelia comments on how the crisis has impacted the production of candy: “We have not been able to offer all the variety that we always produce. We only sell sweet potato in candy, because we can’t buy hobbies or coconut, the prices went up too much!”. As a result, what they earn from the sale is not enough to meet the family’s basic needs.
Amelia takes turns with her sister to accompany her father when he goes out to sell “door to door” in neighboring communities. When she stays home, she helps with the household chores, such as fetching water from the spring, cooking and cleaning. She balances the negative and positive aspects of this quarantine:
“Among the negative aspects, I love being out of the house, I almost never stay in my house and I miss going out,” she adds that for her it is very positive to have more time at home, to share with her 8 brothers and sisters. With them she practices and develops her skills as a teacher:
“I help my little brothers and sisters to go over their classes, to learn to read and write and to make some progress in their learning. I have a little brother in pre-school and I enjoy supporting him in doing manual work, which fills my life during this unusual period”.
Amelia deeply misses her activity as a spokesperson and community leader: “My life is more beautiful when I go out to train, to work with other teenagers, like me, to participate as a spokesperson and meet many people”.
While some young people in her community have access to the internet and can keep informed, speak out and communicate, this is not an option for Amelia. The monthly cost of connectivity is outside her current budget. So when Plan International proposed making a video telling her experience, giving messages to other girls and adolescents, Amelia loved the idea and made an extraordinary effort to connect and express herself to the world again.
Her hope is that this time will soon be over, so that she can return to her activities as a spokesperson, continue her search for employment, and feel again how beautiful her life can be.
Girls Get Equal, Youth empowerment, girls’ leadership