The following interview is part of a series of conversations with young change-makers across the Western Hemisphere. From women’s rights to education to good governance, these leaders, founders, and creators are advocating for social good in a variety of ways across multiple platforms.
In this Q&A, Castelline Tilus, the co-founder and CEO of Ayiti Analytics, discusses how she fell in love with data science and went on to found Haiti’s first data science lab. Ayiti Analytics is focused on addressing challenges in Haiti through data science education, consulting and research. It leverages the potential of data science and analytics to connect youth in Haiti with meaningful employment opportunities and to co-create solutions to community identified challenges.
In spite of Central America’s rich history, culture and traditions, international news from the region frequently tells of violence. Organized crime in the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala is frequently linked to maras, organized gangs with transnational origins. With a total of 431 reported homicides in September 2017 alone, El Salvador, in particular, is considered to be among the most violent countries in the region (Instituto de Medicina Legal, 2017). For women and girls, this violence poses an additional threat in the form of gender-based and sexual violence. Femicide, the intentional killing of women and girls on the basis of their sex, is prominent in El Salvador, with 468 reported cases, the equivalent of one woman’s death every 18 hours, reported in 2017 (Instituto de Medicina Legal, 2017). These alarming statistics raise questions about the nature and roots of violence in El Salvador.
While the clashes between white supremacist groups and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12th and August 13th 2017 prove that racism is still a widespread phenomenon in America that haunts racial minorities, it becomes more and more evident that our task as a society to uproot this evil and pull minorities from its grips is not complete. Truth be told, racism in both forms, extrinsic as well as intrinsic, affects minorities of all ethnicities and colors in the United States. Today, educational institutions all across the United States use racism and unfavorably impact the educational performance of black students. Courthouses and law-enforcement agencies are led by well-known white supremacists who rule out in favor of plaintiffs. Black men are unfairly suspected during police encounters, black inmates outnumber white inmates by incomprehensible proportions, and black professionals in the government and corporate world face subtle instances of prejudiced behavior due to their skin color and heritage. All of these examples suggest that racism is a social problem that acts as an obstacle to the socioeconomic development of the African American community.
The dysfunctionality of the Mexican educational system has been disproportionately widening the general wealth gap in the country, negatively impacting not only the lives of poorer individuals and families, but the progress of the country as a whole. Education is the fundamental base of any functional democratic society. There is overwhelming evidence proving that social conditions across the board are improved when the residents of any given community are better educated. For example, reports suggest that better education leads to higher voter turnout rates, lower levels of poverty and homelessness, and overall, higher standards of health and wellness due to a general awareness as well as access to well-rounded health care. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that with greater education, crime rates of all kinds are reduced, consequentially decreasing incarceration and marginalization rates.
Harvard University professor Ronald Ferguson, addressing the education gap, says that “we look at inequality in access to particular careers, inequality in income and wealth, inequality in the nature of political participation. All those things are mitigated by equalizing the skills that education produces. Not only the academic skills, but the dispositions, the frames of minds, the consciousness, the diligence, the sense of agency.” Simply put, the more educated a society is on average, the better it performs overall. Latin America, as the region with the highest levels of inequality in the world, is rapidly falling further behind other regions in education quality as well. More specifically, Mexico has the highest education inequality rate in the region, which as a consequence is producing broader inequality in wealth and presenting its leadership with a series of developmental obstacles of utmost complexity.