If you’ve been to Cartagena de Indias you’ve seen the women who are icons of the city: las palenqueras. These beautiful Afro-Latinas, dressed in colorful traditional garb and often pictured selling fruit or candy, are the pride of Colombia and on much of the country’s promotional material, especially that of the city of Cartagena. Tourists line up to get that Cartagena picture with the woman whose bright smiles and deep eyes often hold the story of Colombia that many of these same tourists might not care to know: the story of the black Colombia.
Nada me hace bailar tanto como el bajo palpitante y el seductor ritmo del popular reggaetón, y no hay nada como una canción clásica de Daddy Yankee o de Don Omar para llenar la pista de baile de caderas danzantes y pies que se mueven. A lo mejor tiene que ver con los gratos recuerdos de mis viajes a República Dominicana y Perú, y mi año como becaria Fulbright en Colombia, lo que alimentó mi afinidad con el dembow de este género musical y sus letras dichas con frenetismo. A lo mejor, simplemente, el reggaetón es propicio para el baile.
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, Olivia Lovell, the founder of Women of Destiny, an organization that provides mentorship and trainings to women who have been victims of abuse, explains how she overcame adversity and found her purpose and how she helps young women in Jamaica do the same. This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.
Writing a historiography of labor in Colombia is not a simple task. The variety of topics and time periods that have been covered in the literature reveal that it is underdeveloped, since there are not a significant number on any one era or area in particular. Generally speaking, as one searches for sources on Colombia, one finds hundreds of articles and books on drugs and violence. This may be part of the explanation for the unevenness of sources on labor, and can be considered a reason to explore other aspects of Colombian history so as not to pigeonhole it any more than it already has been. A reorientation in the approach to Colombian history may, in fact, help illuminate the proclivity towards drugs and violence in Colombian history in a different and possibly clearer fashion.
This International Women’s Day, as we applaud the political, economic, cultural, and social advancements of half the population, there is much to celebrate in the Americas.
In the past decade, there has been a striking increase in political and economic participation of women. Promisingly, government and NGO agendas alike are increasingly prioritizing gender equity as a cross-cutting, pressing issue, and slowly, collaboration is leading to progress. In Bolivia, approximately half of the legislative body is female. Paraguay recently passed Act 5777, providing protection against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), outlawing femicide, and providing services to survivors of sexual violence. Originating in Argentina, the #NiUnaMenos movement against sexual harassment and assault has made great headway across several countries, and has been followed by the US-rooted #MeToo movement.
This is not to say that women do not struggle every day to feel safe, be heard, be recognized for their contributions, and be valued in government and society. Indeed, experts maintain that the global gender gap will close in 79 years for Latin America and the Caribbean and 168 in North America.
Despite this, change makers are pushing forward, inspiring us to join them in their pursuits or to honor their legacies. Without further ado, here are some of the many she-roes that have confronted challenges to advance the status of women in the Western hemisphere.