This 16-year-old’s voice reaches homes across Guatemala—and she’s using it to stand up for girls

 (Courtesy of Rise Up)

(Courtesy of Rise Up)

As an advocate for Rise Up, Alejandra uses radio to address girls’ education, sexual violence and street harassment in Guatemala.

Ask Alejandra why she speaks up for girls and she’ll tell you: “I dream of a better Guatemala.” At just 16, Alejandra is an advocate for girls in her country and community of Quetzaltenango. Through Let Girls Lead — Rise Up, she began using radio to speak out against sexual violence and acoso callejero (street harassment).

Rise Up’s Let Girls Lead empowers young leaders and local organisations to guarantee girls’ rights through girl-centered advocacy. Alejandra and others like her are able to spread their message across Guatemala through Rise Up’s programmes.

As part of her advocacy for girls’ rights, Alejandra also campaigns with a network of 25 girl leaders. “Our network empowers girls so that they can ignite change in their communities,” she says.

Malala Fund asked Alejandra about her work and the girl network.

Malala Fund (MF): Tell us how your group is fighting sexual violence and harassment. Alejandra (A): Radio spots have been essential — as well as workshops and discussions in different schools where we come in to talk about violence prevention. We are now planning to do community theater in public places to raise awareness!


 Alejandra speaks at the launch of Guatemalan Girls Network’s anti-violence campaign. (Courtesy of Rise Up)

Alejandra speaks at the launch of Guatemalan Girls Network’s anti-violence campaign. (Courtesy of Rise Up)

MF: What do you like most about being on the radio?

A: I have always loved everything communications—radio and television mostly. What I enjoy the most about recording a radio spot is that I can hear my own voice and know that what I’m saying can have an impact in the lives of many people—especially girls and boys all over the country.

MF: Can you tell us about a piece that you are especially proud of?

A: There was one in which we talked about the importance of education. It was the first that my fellow girl leaders and I recorded—it was a complete success. It was a lot of fun and exciting when it aired because it had a big impact and we were heard in many cities around the country.

MF: Why are you passionate about girls and girls’ education?

A: I dream that someday we will all have the same opportunities, including girls in marginalised communities. I believe that empowering girls to lead today, will bear fruit tomorrow.

MF: Have you or your friends faced barriers in going to school?

A: I have known many girls that have suffered sexual violence and have encountered great challenges. They became teenage mothers and were discriminated against—it has been a challenge for them to continue their studies.

MF: If you could change something about your community what would it be?

A: I would change the public educational system in Guatemala. Education in our country has many challenges and we are at a disadvantage—not only are schools lacking infrastructure, but they lack a strong curriculum to promote adequate personal and social development of students.

MF: What changes have you seen in your community since participating in Rise Up’s Let Girls Lead network and the campaign?

A: I have seen how government institutions and municipal decision makers are more interested in investing in adolescent girls in Quetzaltenango. Also, I have seen the impact that my work has had on girls. One girl once told me that the information we gave her was very helpful and that she is no longer afraid of raising her voice and denouncing injustices against her.

 Rise Up’s Let Girls Lead network records Radio Journals with the theme of violence prevention. (Courtesy of Rise Up)

Rise Up’s Let Girls Lead network records Radio Journals with the theme of violence prevention. (Courtesy of Rise Up)

MF: What do you like most about being on the radio? A: I have always loved everything communications—radio and television mostly. What I enjoy the most about recording a radio spot is that I can hear my own voice and know that what I’m saying can have an impact in the lives of many people—especially girls and boys all over the country.

MF: Can you tell us about a piece that you are especially proud of?

A: There was one in which we talked about the importance of education. It was the first that my fellow girl leaders and I recorded—it was a complete success. It was a lot of fun and exciting when it aired because it had a big impact and we were heard in many cities around the country.

MF: Why are you passionate about girls and girls’ education?

A: I dream that someday we will all have the same opportunities, including girls in marginalised communities. I believe that empowering girls to lead today, will bear fruit tomorrow.

MF: Have you or your friends faced barriers in going to school?

A: I have known many girls that have suffered sexual violence and have encountered great challenges. They became teenage mothers and were discriminated against—it has been a challenge for them to continue their studies.

MF: If you could change something about your community what would it be?

A: I would change the public educational system in Guatemala. Education in our country has many challenges and we are at a disadvantage—not only are schools lacking infrastructure, but they lack a strong curriculum to promote adequate personal and social development of students.

MF: What changes have you seen in your community since participating in Rise Up’s Let Girls Lead network and the campaign?

A: I have seen how government institutions and municipal decision makers are more interested in investing in adolescent girls in Quetzaltenango. Also, I have seen the impact that my work has had on girls. One girl once told me that the information we gave her was very helpful and that she is no longer afraid of raising her voice and denouncing injustices against her.


Rise Up advances health, education, and equity by enabling girls, youth, and women to transform their own lives, communities, and countries. Rise Up invests in visionary leaders, local organizations, and innovative solutions to achieve large-scale change through leadership development, advocacy capacity
building, grant-making, and effective storytelling. Since 2009, Rise Up’s powerful network of over 500 leaders has directly benefited 7 million girls, youth, and women, and advocated for over 100 laws and policies impacting 115 million people in Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and the U.S.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bhumika Regmi is social media associate at Malala Fund. She loves dogs and plans on naming her future puppy Mochi, after the Japanese treat.