Power of Us: Uniting voices for a better world



by Felipe Orozco, Alexandre Denis ; HEC Paris


Panel with Paulina Villegas, Reporter, The New York Times, Bettina Bulgheroni, Founder & President, Fundación Educando, Lydia María Cacho Ribeiro, Journalist, Writer and Human Rights Activist, Larissa Crawford, Anti-Racism Consultant, Larissa Crawford Speaks, Alba Medina, Investor & Entrepreneur, Independent Financial Advisor & Co-Founder of Dalia Empower; Rising Talent Women’s Forum Mexico 2016


This panel offered the voice of 4 different women who have intensively been working in diverse areas such as journalism, activism, education, and leadership development. Rich and diverse works that converge in one result: empowering women and providing them strength and dignity to unleash their potential. 


Lydia Cacho: At a time when sexist violence is on the rise, we need alternative narratives. All along the history until the mid XXth century, the one and only narrative was the one of men. Through the XXth century, thanks to journalism, literature and politics women have gained ground. The access of women to the political, social, and economic sphere opened up new spaces for the voices of women to speak, be brave, and try new narratives to combat gender violence. A journalist and activist with more than 30 years of experience, Lydia explained her recent work of new narratives to combat gender violence.


Her latest works focus on the way men operate the construction of women’s professional, sentimental, and daily life: aiming at a better understanding of the formation of machismo in society : how males do they construct their masculinity?. The second one, the website Somos Valientes focuses on interviews of young girls and give ideas to construct a more peaceful Mexico.


Lydia’s journalist work always included a human rights perspective and in particular has fought gender violence. She has founded and run high security refuges for endangered women fleeing violence and has developed a framework to support women in this conditions. Her work has helped other women not only establish shelters, but also helped changing legislation to protect women against gender violence in Central America and The Caribbean.  As she states: respect, rescue, enhancing women power, and knowledge sharing, is the only way with which we will achieve peace.


Larissa Crawford, an activist on indigenous rights, shares some of her experience success steps to allow women voices be heard. She focuses on indigenous people – who account for 4% of the world population, occupy 20% of the hearth space on which we find 80% of the biodiversity. She begins by proposing a reflective work understanding ancestors. “Who am I? Where did I come from? Am I able to understand myself? This work will frame my resilience and help understand myself right now.”


Larissa’s view is to engage and push for a space: “make people uncomfortable” in order to engage them and bring into public space the important issues. She suggests women to act confidently, have engagement plans, experiences, authenticity, and ability to switch to the language of the one you are talking to, make them hear. It is important to look around, who is there? What is preventing them from listening to you?


Finally, her work also focuses on the media and creating consciousness of how in many cases it conveys a wrong image of certain ethnic groups and women. The media coverage often negatively depicts indigenous people and women within this groups. What is the responsibility of the Media? She asks. How are women portrayed that can prevent them to accessing services and fulfilling their needs? We have the right to have a voice concludes her.


Bettina Bulgheroni’s work with Fundación Educando, an organization working with people below the poverty line, incorporates women's voices through education and providing them with tools to express themselves. The foundation is taking care of 100000 young people from Argentina, among them many indigenous. It has reached 20 years of existence this year and its main activity is in remote Argentina, aiming at the poor.


“Poverty leads to silence and education is something that nobody can take away from you”. Under this philosophy Bettina and her team have worked to bring education to rural and indigenous communities in the deep Argentina. Their work has not been easy, they have faced men reluctance and been subject to their permission in order to develop her work.


For example, at the very beginning of Bettina’s activity she had to pass through a "semblance" with the caciques to request permission to educate women in their communities. She had to sit in front of a group of men caciques, remain silent 50 minutes while they watched: "very good blonde, you seem to be good people, I'm going to let you in". Unfortunately, if caciques do not authorize they cannot educate women and the community.


During this time, the team at Fundacion Educando has learnt that the design from the desktop proves to be ineffective: you have to understand people from the field and from their needs. This extensive work has taught them that in education children are very important, as they are the future, but young people and adults are the present. Educating women not only improves an individual’s life, but it also cascades to the family. As Bettina has observed, there is no mother who has been educated that does not lower education to their children.


Alba Medina has worked, studied and invested on herself to legitimately gain a place in a work environment mainly lead by men. Her development process made her aware of the importance for women to develop self-confidence and invest on their development.


The change is made here and women have to face more challenges than men. Building even courts to play is not a social issue, but a reality of economic convenience. 12 trillion USD in the world are at stake. The most important phenomenon is the involvement of women in the labor force. The greatest event on the global scale nowadays is not the rivalry between the US and China but this very rise of women as an economic force, with an exponential augmentation.


But it is very important to consider what a woman needs to grow and successfully join the economy; emotional intelligence, express herself, expose ideas, speak loudly, and claim her place. For this it is important that women change and understand certain codes common in men. For example, women tend to network only horizontally, while men have vertical networks. It is advisable to transmit experience and to meet more women. A very practical advice is to have a mentor that she admires and learn from her. Sometimes women are the worst enemies of themselves, but they can also be the best allies. But no matter what, Alba concludes, hopefully your dreams will be bigger than your fears to failure. This will enable women to avoid failure and help break the cycle of inequality.


 This article is part of a series on #WFAmericas. Watch the full session on YouTube.