Girls from Costa Rica Dream Big

AnaLaura
Posted September 29, 2019 from Costa Rica
Club Niña - a Weekly After-school Program - a Safe Space for Girls in Primary School

My name is Ana Laura Araya. When I was 12 years old, my family moved from San José, Costa Rica to Atlanta, GA. This is the place I called home for a long time. While living in Atlanta as an adult, I had the chance to work in fundraising for a girl-serving organization. It was there where my eyes were opened about the situation the girls face on a daily basis and all the tools that we as citizens could give girls to help them break cycles of violence and poverty. That and having watched Girl Rising, a documentary that came out in 2013, the year after the United Nations proclaimed a Day of the Girl. Having worked with girls in Atlanta and having watched (many many times) Girl Rising definitely changed my life. I began to understand the great consequences of gender inequality. 

Six years ago I moved back to Costa Rica. I started reading about teen pregnancy rates. Not only here but in Latin America in general. I learned that we are the only region in the world where pregnancies in ages under 15 years are increasing. Child marriage as well. Child marriage doesn't necessarily mean a legal union, but an informal relationship where a young girl lives with an older man. Unlike some other Latin American countries, this is actually against the law in Costa Rica since 2017. I also traveled to Guatemala, where I met two 11-year-old girls who were only a month away from giving birth. Victims of sexual assault. I also knew about poverty and vulnerability here; neighborhoods where opportunities for growth and education are scarce. Many turn to drug trafficking and prostitution. People think that in Costa Rica we never see inequality or cycles of violence like in other parts of Latin America, but this is not true.

I spent years talking to people about starting a girl-serving organization. Inspired by the organization in Atlanta, I felt like I had a way to combat all of these social problems through empowering girls. Not one single person told me it wouldn't be worth it or that I shouldn't go for it. In fact, others joined me and eventually Soy Niña (I am a Girl) began. We are the only girl-serving organization in Costa Rica that works to tackle gender inequality starting at early ages. We currently have an after-school weekly program for 100 girls in at-risk neighborhoods in the Desamparados county. In this safe space, we teach the girls about their rights, we analyze how messages and the media portray women, we learn how to say no and that all of our qualities makes us unique. We have witnessed so many positive changes in the almost two years since we began. Girls who were bullied were able to overcome their harassment and defend themselves. Girls who were anxious and could not eat in public now share snacks with their classmates. Girls who came to us to tell us that they had been victims of some type of sexual assault. And with Soy Niña, this has stopped. We believe that it is better to build strong girls than to later repair broken women. 

The girls stories are tough. A lot of circumstances go against them. Most of them do not count on a fatherly figure in their life and have witnessed some type of violence at home. Neglect is very common. 

But thanks to our program these girls are discovering their courage and starting to dream big. Our program is long-term, meaning the girls that enter the program will be with us until their last day of high school. At least this is the plan. 

I am so very proud of all that Soy Niña has accomplished and I look forward to impacting more and more girls across Costa Rica across the years. I firmly believe that investing girls is the best investment to combat poverty and inequality.  

This story was submitted in response to GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable.

Comments 18

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maeann
Sep 29
Sep 29

Hi Alaraya,

Welcome to World Pulse.

Thank you for sharing about the wonderful works of your organization - Soy Niña (I am a Girl) in Costa Rica.

It is nice to know that there are people like you doing something great for the girls, educating them to combat poverty and in-equality as you said.

May you reach more girls so that they can be protected and educated.

AnaLaura
Oct 14
Oct 14

Hi! Thank you, hugs from Costa Rica to the Philippines! We can add you to our mailing list, if you'd like. Just need your e-mail address.

maeann
Oct 14
Oct 14

Thank you..hugs back from the Philippines

maeann
Oct 14
Oct 14

Followed you on social media, yes i will send you my email

Anita Shrestha
Sep 29
Sep 29

Dear Alaraya
Goods works , keep it continue and share continue for replicating to other.

AnaLaura
Oct 14
Oct 14

Thank you Anita! Your mission in Nepal sounds so interesting! Congratulations on all of your accomplishments. I'm going to read your posts more :)

Hannah B
Sep 30
Sep 30

Hello Alaraya,
Welcome to World Pulse!
I am happy to see you here, and to have a voice from Costa Rica join us!
It sounds like you have had some very interesting experiences and that your organization is doing great work. I hope you will continue to share with us the work and accomplishments of Soy Niña!
Warm regards,
Hannah

AnaLaura
Oct 14
Oct 14

Gracias Hannah :) Saw you lived in CR. Pura vida :) un abrazo !!

Jill Langhus
Sep 30
Sep 30

Hello Ana,

Welcome to World Pulse! Wow! What a great, and inspiring story. I'm curious why you chose to move back to Costa Rica?

I'm so glad that a lot of people supported your work and the inception of your organization. It's great to hear. It's also awesome how well your organization is doing so early on, too. I would love to see your program expand so that even more girls are empowered. How do girls get signed up for your program, i.e., do teachers, guidance counselors or parents sign them up, or do they find out about the program, and sign themselves up?

It's too true that building strong girls is easier than repairing broken women.

Do you have a website and/or social media page(s) to like/follow? I would love to follow your work. I'm looking forward to hearing more about it.

Hope you have a great week!

AnaLaura
Oct 14
Oct 14

Hola Jill! Qué tal? The girls club has an open enrollment. So parents/guardians go to the enrollment process in February (program lasts from February to November). We announce this opening for enrollment through partnerships with other organizations and the local schools. Most girls get taken to the club by a parent or guardian. Some (older) arrive by themselves. But - basically we bring the program to their communities.

You can follow us on all social media: @soyninacr :)

Un abrazo!

Ana Laura

Jill Langhus
Oct 16
Oct 16

Hola Ana:-) Muy bien. Y tu?

Very cool. Thanks for the clarification!

Got it. Will do.

XX

Hello, Alaraya,

Welcome to World Pulse! Congratulations on starting the only girl-serving organization in Costa Rica! That must really be a huge feat. I'm so glad that a new voice from Costa Rica is rising up and is now part of our growing sisterhood. I'm looking forward to reading your stories and updates here.

Thank you for sharing!

AnaLaura
Oct 14
Oct 14

Thank you Karen! Still learning. I'm going to read more about your and your work in the Philippines. Brene Brown is a big inspiration for me as well. Hugs from Costa Rica!

You're welcome, dear. We all are learning. :) Wow, it's great to know that you're inspired by Brene Brown, too. Yay! Hugs, dear.

Hope you have a great day!

Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi

Hi Alaraya,
Thank you so much for your post and your achievements and we warmly welcome you to this great world Pulse platform. Looking forward to reading more of your posts and learning more about your work with the girls.
Stay blessed

AnaLaura
Oct 14
Oct 14

Thank you Anita! Are you in Uganda? Amazing. If you'd like to be added to our mailing lists let me know. You can also find us in all social media --> @soyninacr

Beth Lacey
Oct 14
Oct 14

Congratulations! This sounds like a wonderful program. Much success to you!

AnaLaura
Oct 14
Oct 14

Thank you Beth!!

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