Celebrating International Women’s Day: Each for Equal
March 8, 2020
International Women’s Day is an initiative focused on helping women gain equal involvement in global development. This year’s International Women’s Day theme, Each for Equal calls for everyone to work together to achieve gender equality. Today, we want to celebrate the role that education plays in helping women elevate themselves from poverty.
When you educate a girl, you educate a nation
Equal access to education among boys and girls is fundamental to addressing gender inequality in Mexico. More than 1/3 of Mexican women between the ages of 15-29 do not attend school or work and only 27% of them study until high school. This has damaging effects for themselves, their families and society. Many of these women are forced to drop out of school for various reasons including early childbearing and to perform family duties. It’s apparent that girls aren’t missing school because of a lack of intellect, but because of societal obligations. At Sarahuaro, we believe that with equal access to education, girls will likely have more control over their bodies and futures, leading to more productive, satisfying and healthier lives.
A Life of Change
Veronica (“Vero”) Cruz (last image) grew up in one of the many Mexico City ghettos. At the age of 7, she was given the duty of taking care of her 3 younger siblings while her mother went to work. Her father had a hard time keeping jobs because of his addiction to alcohol. The little money earned was meant to pay for rent and some food. Vero reflects, “Most days, I remember we ate popcorn as the only meal.”
At the age of 18, she moved to live with her boyfriend, who’s now her husband. “I remember I didn’t want to have more than 2 children and I wanted to have them many years apart so it wouldn’t be as hard to raise them as it was for me to take care of my brother and 2 sisters.”
She worked as a cook in a mental hospital and as a nurse’s assistant in a senior resident home for many years in Mexico City. But poverty, her husband’s alcoholism, hostility, low self-esteem and lack of trust were contributing to repeating life patterns that were echoes of her past. “I was a beaten child, so I blamed not only my mother but the whole world for my suffering. I grew up having a hard time; I felt worthless and shameful.
Vero and her family moved to Cabo in 2014 searching for a better life and promises of employment for her husband. She joined Sarahuaro’s community 4 years ago, and since then makes every effort to attend Sarahuaro human development classes and therapy sessions. Over the years, Vero has discovered her ability to knit, sew and embroider. Vero is now a part of the Producers team where she practices commitment, accomplishment and loyalty.
“I enjoy making pillows and crochet items that people like to buy and take home. Bringing money to my house helps to pay the bills, bus fares and water when needed. My life has changed radically – a shift from feeling worthless and miserable to believing that I deserve the good. I can now generate money doing what I do well without leaving my granddaughter unattended as it happened with my children. I am deeply grateful to Sarahuaro. I don´t feel like a victim or blame others anymore, because I have a new understanding of things. Individual therapy gives me a space where I can name my feelings and forgive my actions”
Vero’s changes motivated her husband to join AA, and he has been sober for 5 years. Vero´s soul has been healed and she faces life with a strong will to change the cycle. She takes care of her 5-year-old granddaughter Emily, while her daughter works, and helps her 17-year-old son who works full time and studies in high school. They all live in one room structure house close to Sarahuaro’s Women Development Center.
Mexico still has a long way to go before it eliminates the drastic gender gap. However, with our efforts and your support, we can all create a more inclusive and sustainable society – this begins with gender equality and empowerment of women.
They have an opportunity to support each other regardless of what their backgrounds are. They come together unified and become better for themselves and their families.
- Faryn Clark, Sarahuaro Board Member