Young Women Leading by Example
How a graduating pequeña reflects on leadership and life as a female in Honduras before going to high school.
February 22, 2017 - Honduras
"Sometimes it can be ugly. Boys will treat you poorly with insults and cat calls as you walk around. Sometimes in the rest of the country things can get violent, even towards younger girls." Life for a young woman in Honduras can sometimes be difficult, explains Aracely,* a 17-year-old 9th grader who has just graduated from the Ranch's 9th grade into high school in Tegucigalpa. Thanks to a program run out of the Ranch, Chicas Poderosas or "Powerful Women," girls are leaving for the city with the tools and confidence to thrive outside.
Aracely came to the Ranch eight years ago, and at the age of twelve decided to start attending the Chicas Poderosas group. This is a youth group of sorts that explores ideas like self-esteem, career goals, and what it means to be a truly powerful woman in Honduras. "I first joined to just have the chance to meet up and chat with everyone else my age," she explains. "It's nice to have a place with this specific dynamic, girls talking with girls."
Generally, Chicas meets once a week for around 90 minutes to two hours. After a full five years, Aracely can definitely see the difference that it has made. "Because of Chicas, I think my self-esteem is definitely higher. When we have problems with really anything, we get to receive help. Not just from the group leader, but from each other as well."
This boost can be well needed in Honduras, a country whose violence against women creates a difficult environment for women to thrive or, at times, even just live in. In 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women concluded that violent deaths of women in Honduras increased 263% between 2005 and 2013, noting special concerns for high levels of domestic violence, femicide, and sexual violence.**
To combat this environment, Chicas Poderosas helps grow a community of young women who look to each other for support and strength.
"I think me and other girls my age here," Aracely explains, "are examples by showing our maturity, and also things like why sharing or compassion are important." Remembering when she was younger, she adds, "I remember when I was little and looked up to girls who were as old as I am now. People would always tell me, "Oh, when you are in 9th grade, you'll see."
Now she does in fact see. As one of the oldest girls still on the Ranch, Aracely stands as an excellent example of a strong, young woman for the rest of the younger girls in the home. Her favorite classes were ones in natural sciences, and following high school she hopes to go on to obtain a college degree in nutrition, which she'll use to help better the lives of everyone in Honduras. "Nutrition isn't a super famous or popular field. There is a lack of good, healthy nutrition here, so that is an area I think I can help with."
For now, high school awaits, and that involves one of the biggest changes that pequeños with NPH see in their lives at NPH - leaving the ranch. "One of the biggest challenges will be not having the support outside that I have on the ranch," Aracely explains with a trace of nervousness in her voice.
Thanks to Chicas Poderosas she knows that she has support for this large part of her life as well. "We (in Chicas) can be examples for each other, as well. Aracely and the other graduating ninth graders in her Chicas group know that while big changes are coming into their lives, they have each other to help everyone thrive.
* Name changed to protect privacy
**Source: Center for Gender & Refugee Studies; UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women