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.
By Laura Schroeder
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.
By Alexia Rauen
Chile is – and hopefully soon to be was – one of four countries (Chile, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and El Salvador) in the Latin American region that completely bans abortion, and one of six globally. The penalty for receiving an abortion in Chile can include jail time of up to five years. There is also a possibility of jail time for any individual who administers an abortion. In Chile, women may suffer punitive measures that only serve to further extend their pain, and medical professionals who offer abortions do so at significant risk to themselves.
But finally, it seems the women of Chile will have hope that they have not had since 1989, when the ban was implemented. As it stands, 70 percent of Chileans support this bill. In 2015, as seen in the graphic below, provided by the Chilean government, President Bachelet released a bill which will allow abortions in certain instances.
By Laura Schroeder
My Big Confession
I am a reggaetón fan. There, I’ve said it.
Nothing gets me dancing quite like the pulsing bass and seductive hooks of popular reggaetón, and there is nothing like a classic Daddy Yankee or Don Omar track to ignite the dance floor with swinging hips and shuffling feet. Perhaps it’s my fond memories of travels in the Dominican Republic and Peru and my Fulbright year in Colombia that feed my affinity to the genre’s dembow beat and frenetically delivered lyrics. Perhaps it’s simply conducive to dancing.
By Laura Schroeder
With the feminization of labor that has occurred in recent years, it is vital to examine the interplay between labor, gender, and globalization. In the book Disposable Women and Other Myths of Global Capitalism, the human geographer and feminist Melissa W. Wright effectively argues that in today’s global economy, the myth that the third world woman1 is disposable is pervasive. This ethos is tied to a culture of violence that normalizes the mistreatment of women and permits their dismissal and delegitimization in the public sphere. Using ethnographic research and a variety of theoretical frameworks, Wright presents the reader with an intricate and passionate account of the spatialized and corporeal aspects of factory work in the global South. However, a more detailed exploration of how workers perceive their own value and labor as well as a more committed examination of coalition-building and global solidarity would further strengthen her claims.