Tere González García is convinced that collective support and investment can open important doors for girls and young women to step into their power and explore the paths of their choice. She believes education is one of the greatest assets a person can have — with a ripple effect on communities, economies, and the next generations. Since the young age of 16, Tere has worked in the social development field as a passionate activist on issues spanning from gender equality to affordable energy. From Mexico City to Taipei, Tere’s assignments over the years have taken her around the world to advocate and lead projects in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Now, as the executive director of Circle de Luz, she works to radically empower girls and women of Latin American origin in the United States through mentoring, holistic programming, and scholarship funds for further education. We spoke to Tere about her experiences and reflection on how to advance gender equality at the local level.
- How do you advocate for equal rights for girls and women?
At Circle de Luz, we work everyday to ensure that young Latinas in our city have the education, resources, and community support they need to chart their own future and succeed in any path of their choice.
Latina women in the United States are at least twice as likely as white women to be living in poverty. This not only harms them but also their families, the community, and the economy at large. Latinas also experience many other challenges at disproportionate rates, including higher rates of high school dropout, teenage pregnancy, discrimination, and unemployment. Gender equality is imperative for any nation’s progress and an essential equity goal that needs to be addressed everywhere through daily micro and macro actions.
I am proud to lead an organization that has been intentionally working toward that goal for the past 15 years. I have always believed the impact and change that grassroots organizations drive at the local level is extremely necessary and powerful. Macro-level efforts are of course crucial, but many hard-won gender equality gains were first fought locally and the path was charted from the very grassroots. When I learned about the direct work Circle de Luz does with Latina girls and their families, it was a no brainer. Joining Circle represented a big–and the right–professional shift for me after working for almost a decade in international development organizations. Together, we advocate for gender equality through the lens of intersectionality and by focusing on Latina advancement. I emphasize that we do this together — first, because community is a cornerstone of the Latinx/Latine culture and, second, because we believe that collective efforts have a better chance to succeed and last by exponentially boosting passion, resilience, sustainability, and impact.
Latina progress is women’s progress,and I love to reflect on the doors and opportunities that their autonomy and upward mobility can open to uplift other women from other backgrounds and next generations.
2. How has your personal experience with gender discrimination (whether lived or observed) motivated you to advocate for girls and women?
Gender and the culture and social norms around it still, nowadays, determine a person’s experience even before being born. I remember noticing this and reflecting on it from a young age. Why is it more acceptable for a girl to want a doll than a truck? Why do us girls have to wear skirts as part of our uniform if pants are more comfortable? If a set of parents have the same profession and work hours, why does the mom take on so many additional tasks at home? These apparently simple issues without obvious explanations for a small girl in Mexico City, revealed themselves later. Little did I know!
Like most other women, I have inevitably felt that my safety was at risk in certain environments due to my gender and experienced microaggressions. I faced the impacts of gender biases in everyday tasks. However, what motivated me to formally advocate for women and girls as part of my career was discovering feminism, the SDGs, and working in all kinds of communities around my home country, Mexico, and around the world as part of the UN Young Leaders for the SDGs, a program by the UN Secretary General’s Envoy On Youth. Gender inequality challenges are so broad and obviously exacerbated in certain contexts — but in the end, there is no country up to this day that has achieved full gender equality. Seeing this firsthand and understanding the economic and social potential our countries lose when women and girls can’t fully be part of our societies, fed my passion for gender issues and my stance against inequality.
Gender dimensions intersect with many other layers of a person’s identity — including but not limited to race, ethnicity, country of origin, language, spirituality, sexual orientation, and physical/intellectual abilities — and it can be counterproductive to just look at gender in an isolated way.
3. What gives you hope that a gender-equal world is possible?
The powerful work grassroots organizations like MAIA Impact, Casa de las Mercedes, Dottie Rose Foundation, She Built This City, Circle de Luz, and many others, implement to advance gender equality gives me hope. Their connection to reality and local or national issues is essential for any work at the macro level. Their voices should always be at the government and international development tables for a gender-equal world to be possible.
South-South exchanges of practices and resources to achieve gender equality also give me hope because that’s where the deepest inequality challenges and setbacks are met with profound resourcefulness, resilience, and innovation. It is about time that the Global Majority leads the gender equality narratives and long overdue courses of action.
4. What does #EqualEverywhere mean to you?
To me, for women and girls to be #EqualEverywhere means access to education, economic mobility, employment, and the right to choose — over their own bodies, time, relationships, jobs, and finances.
To support grassroots work to advance equality and access to education for young Latinas visit: www.circledeluz.org