Empowering Women to Succeed | The Washington Center

Empowering Women to Succeed

With great power comes great responsibility, and First Ladies (most notably, the First Lady of Panama, pictured below) have more power and responsibility than they may realize.


Last week, the Organization of American States hosted a day of panel discussions on the long-overlooked issue of child, early and forced marriages and motherhood in the Americas. This issue, commonly thought to only take place in undeveloped countries, is one rather prevalent among the North, Central, and Latin American regions. The panel brought together advocates, ambassadors and activists alike to show an audience the causes and effects surrounding child brides.

After statistics were read and testimonies were given, I found myself left staring in the face of general consensus which revealed the true underlying cause of this saddening phenomena: gender inequality and violence against girls.

I heard first-hand accounts of girls who grew up in Latin American communities where the rhetoric remains dated. Girls are not thought to be as smart or as capable of fulfilling educational requirements and pursuing formal careers. The idea of being anything other than a mother and a bride isn't alluring, but societal constructs and gender expectations make it defining.

The First Lady of Panama, Lorena Castillo de Varela, was quite the presence at the event and was able to speak to the issue in a spirited, eloquent way that really captured my attention. Along with serving as First Lady, she is a politician and journalist. Recently named as a UNAIDS Special Ambassador for AIDS in Latin America, she is a pillar in the Panamanian community and a force to be reckoned with.


Lorena Castillo, Primera dama de Panamá

Courtesy of siemprelatina.com


Before speaking at the event, her press team showed a video of the work she has done on the ground to combat the aforementioned issue and help girls reframe their lives and realize new ones in which they are free to pursue the educational opportunities and careers of their choice. Her words carried weight and left me feeling empowered and hopeful that young girls across regions will envision a future that is female and begin to pursue it.


Read Briana's previous blog posts here

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