The Frontlines of My Life: Asking questions

Nelly Andrade
Posted March 9, 2016 from Mexico

Children are curious. My belief is that its part of our human nature to be completely fascinated about what's around us. As kids, we are just starting to discover not only how the world works but we are beginning to define who we are and find what's our place in this world.

I was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. A city commonly refered as the innovation and industrial center of the country, with the highest GDP per capita in Mexico and the second highest of Latin America. Yet, as all of the cities in our region, Monterrey has a huge and visible economic inequality.

As a child, of course I had no idea of what economic inequality was, but a common image that I saw was children on the street. And this was something that I couldn't understand and made me start to ask questions. To my parents, to my teachers even to my friends. "Why do children like them live on the street?" "Where are their parents?" "Do they have a house?" "Do they go to school?"

And after some vague answers came the biggest question:

"Why are they poor?"

I got all the different answers you might imagine: "They're poor because they were unlucky and were born in a poor family." "They're poor because their parents are lazy and don't work enough, if not, they wouldn't be poor anymore. Just like us." and the typical (and possibly the one that led me into this journey) "Why do you care? You're just a child, worry about school. You cannot help them."

I was so intrigued about why I had been so "lucky" according to one of my parents that when my mother bought a new dishwasher (that was big enough to come in a huge box), I took the box, put some sheets and a pillow in it and declared it my home. In the mind of a 7 year old, living like this would help me understand what people felt and perhaps allow me to discover how to solve their problem. Of course that didn't happen in that just moment, and a couple of days after my mom had thrown my home away.

When I think about it today, I'm thankful to many people. To my parents for letting me experiment and encourage me, in their own way, to stay curious. To the teachers that I might have annoyed in some point in my life with tought questions with no simple answers. And to my younger self, for being such a good observer and not settling with easy answers.

At my 24 years, I'm a Sustainable Development professional, that grew up with incredible opportunities, and regardless of the really "macho" father I have, I always felt that my opinion was given its place and that my voice was heard. Today, I'm dedicated full-time to encourage young students globally to come up with solutions to the world's biggest challenges, I'm an advocate for Women's Economic Empowerment in my Region through the UN Women movement: Empower Women, and as I've grown older, I have never stopped learning, in my quest to find answers to my questions. Still, I have only discovered that instead of answering the questions I had when I was just a kid, the more I learn, the more complex and difficult the questions get. Additionally, being and staying curious has helped me lead amazing initatives and start to see some changes around social problems as complicated as poverty.

For this, I can only say that solutions can't come without asking questions, and that difficult questions, require not only lots of thinking but of lots of doing. So if you want to know who you are and how to make impact, my advice would be: Take action as soon as you can, but every now and then question, why, how, and for whom you're acting.

Comments 2

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Kadidia Doumbia
Mar 14, 2016
Mar 14, 2016

Dear Nelly,

Your questioning of life matters is what advocacy and caring about the others is about.

It seems that you were born to be a community leader. If one does not try to understand the environment and to think about eventual solutions, improvement will never happen in the community. That's the role of leaders and you're a leader; but you are a leader who cares about the people.

We should not accept poverty around us, we should not find it normal to have children living on the streets but the society has molded us in such a way that nothing schocks us any more. We need people like you to remind us that things should be improved and that every human being has the right to a decent life style.

Thank you for sharing your story on the worldpulse platform. It is refreshing and inspiring.

Kadidia Doumbia
Apr 04, 2016
Apr 04, 2016

Dear Nelly,

I would have loved to hear more about the impact your engagement and activities had on your community. There is no doubt that your program is offering opportunities to youth that hey would have otherwise never had, it would have been nice to have a follow-up on the changes that took place in their lives because of that.

Congratulations for your good work.