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Maria’s Story – Inspiring change for International Women’s Day

In the run up to International Women’s day 2014, we at Mision México have decided to interview three exceptional young ladies from our family. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring change’ and these girls certainly do that! So far we have spoken to Katherine and Dulce and last, but certainly not least, it’s Maria!

Maria

Maria at her Christmas Concert 2014

If Maria was a Spice Girl, she would be sporty spice! She is a keen surfer and football player and is currently studying dance. Her dream is to run her own dance studio and help children overcome trauma through dance. Like all the young ladies at Mision México she is talented, intelligent and highly motivated to build on the change she has seen in her life and become a successful young lady!

What strikes you most when you speak to Maria is her sheer determination to “be the best I can be in everything I do.?  Her can-do attitude to life is mirrored on that of her sporting hero Bethany Hamilton, professional surfer, who lost an arm after being attacked by a shark. “She showed women that, even when missing a part of ourselves, we can do amazing things, and that we deserve to be treated equally? she told me.

Maria’s call for change

Maria is adamant that things need to change for women all over the world: “men can treat us as if we are cheaper when we are not. Being a woman in Mexico is tough.? Maria certainly speaks from experience. Her ‘womanhood’ was forced upon her far too early when, aged three, her mother died. Aged 5 she was forced into domestic slavery by her family who sent her to live with a stranger after her grandfather tried to sexually abuse her. You can see her full story below in an MTV documentary “Invisible Slaves? where she tells her own “Cinderella? story of domestic servitude, sleeping on a cardboard sheet, and being beaten with a cord when she hadn’t sold enough in the street. Her story begins at 8.07mins

Thankfully, her life changed “completely?, when aged 8 she found the courage to run away from where she was living and seek the help of a lady she often sold to. Once they believed her story she was referred to the social services and eventually Mision México  where “I had two parents who showed me what it was like to have unconditional love, and I had a big family to show me what it was like to be united.?  This changed her life; she became proud of who she was.

Maria teaching dancing at Mision Mexico

Maria teaching dancing at Mision Mexico

For Maria, change needs to occur in every aspect of women’s lives in every corner of the world – they need greater access to education, to jobs, to political power, but perhaps most importantly, to hope, to safety and to acceptance. When I asked her what advice she had for young girls all over the world she told me “things need to change so that all women everywhere can be proud of who they are, and are not scared of being women. They need to be who they really are, to be the very best they can be and to never give up.?

On International Women’s day, we often celebrate how concrete development initiatives such as education programmes, maternal health initiatives and micro finance projects change the lives of women and their communities as it is easy to evidence. What is more difficult to understand, yet just as important to consider, is how “softer? interventions such as how providing a young girl with community, safety and love can change her life immeasurably.

Pam Skuse and Maria flying high

Pam and Maria flying high

Dulce’s story – Inspiring change for International Women’s day

In the run up to International Women’s day 2014, we at Mision México have decided to interview three exceptional young ladies from our family. This year’s theme is ‘Inspiring change’ and these girls certainly do that! Last week, we interviewed Katherine. Next up, it’s Dulce,

Dulce Surfing

Dulce Surfing

Dulce is another of Mision México’s bright, compassionate young ladies who has overcome a very difficult childhood. Now a keen surfer, a passion she inherited from her father Alan Skuse, she inspires the younger girls in her family to surf without fear and to hold their own with the boys! She loves music and, like Katherine, has chosen to pursue a career that allows her to help others: social work. She is currently in university and describes the purpose of social work as  “letting people know that, as human beings, we all have the same rights – women as much as men.?  When asked why she chose to study social work she told me:

Decision to pursue Social Work

“Mum (Pam Skuse) had such a good life in Australia and she left it behind and changed everything so she could help all of us. She’s been a real inspiration and continues to help even when being incredibly challenged with the children at the refuge. That’s why I’m studying to be a Social Worker, because Mum inspires me to help others.?

Dulce’s story

Dulce ready for class

Dulce ready for class

Dulce’s journey to University, however, has by no means been smooth. When I asked her what the biggest challenge in her life has been, it wasn’t losing her mother to a terminal illness aged 7 or being forced to beg on the streets for money aged 12 that she quotes. It was her grandmother telling her that she didn’t need to study and that a women’s place was at home to look after men that caused the most damage. A firm believer in education from a very young age, Dulce looked to the social services for help who referred her to Mision México. Once there Pam confirmed what Dulce already knew: that she should study.

“Suddenly I didn’t have to work, I didn’t have to worry, all I had to do was study?

However, her studies where further interrupted by her worry for her younger brother who she supported through rehab to help him beat this drug addiction. Unsurprising the emotional strain affected her progress at school.  “I kept asking myself ‘why is this happening to me?’ It is so hard to concentrate in school when you are so sad and I began to doubt myself and think maybe my grandmother was right.?

Mision Mexico inspiring change

However, thanks to her own strength of character, bolstered by Pam and Alan’s continual encouragement, she completed high school and is now flourishing at university. While she recognises that it is hard being a woman, she is proud to be one and admires them for being mentally strong, caring and acutely aware of what is going on around them. This year’s International Women’s Day is important to Dulce: “Change needs to occur, so women are finally equal,? she told me, “all girls should have access to education; they need to show the world that jobs are not only for men!?

Dulce

Dulce Surfing

Dulce represents the self-starters of this world; those of us who know that they possess the intelligence, determination and compassion needed to succeed. Those of us who challenge the status quo and strive for change at all costs. Those of us with self–belief even when circumstance and loved ones tell us we shouldn’t. Not all girls are lucky enough to possess this self-belief, and never have access to the tools to find it – Dulce believes education, family and compassion are what is needed.