We have all the same rights
Education is the key to improve human being's lives.
And yet, in some places in the world, we are far from having access to that key.
I was born in a country that suffered during almost 20 years (1973-1990) one of the most atrocious dictatorships in the world. A bloody and violent time where most of the social benefits acquired some years before were eliminated or reduced close to zero. Education (as well as health, housing and retirement plans) became a merchandise: something that had been free and for all for a while, progressively became a luxury for many. This phenomenon affected especially the higher education sector, with tuition fees imposed by the military junta that increased rapidly the following years.
Accessing an education became then a real challenge for more than half of the country. For instance, public spending on education was reduced on a 35% in 1981 (http://www.opech.cl/inv/analisis/acceso.pdf). In a country socially and morally hurt, girls' education was not even a discussion - and discussion at all was banned of the social life.
Growing up in a country like this (impoverished, oppressed, and socially unjust) marked my early childhood. And this didn't seem to change when democracy came back: access to education is still an issue, 23 years after the end of the dictatorship in Chile. Income inequality is one of the highest among the OECD countries (http://www.oecd.org/berlin/47570121.pdf), and women are the most affected by it, which means that access to higher education is highly determined by the place one is born or the wealth of one's family. The other option being to get student loans and a huge debt that will burden you for life.
Today, this inequity is one of the greatest challenge girls confront in my country to accessing an education. However, there are multiple other barriers that prevent us from accessing a quality education. Culturally speaking, our country is still late regarding gender parity: women are generally more affected by poverty than men, and suffer discrimination on the job market and in politics, the media and the family (http://www.wikigender.org/index.php/Gender_Equality_in_Chile). In my opinion, this is one of the more pressing issues we need to overcome because it affects every aspect of a girl's life, and sometimes could lead to more serious matters such as domestic violence, lack of respect for women, lack of confidence, etc.
Personally, I experienced first hand said inequality: coming from a poor and broken family (my parents divorced when I was 5), I was destined to finish school and start working to generate a new income for the household. Going to university was a goal and a dream, but without money to pay for my tuition fees, I couldn't do that. Following my mum's advice, I worked hard at school so I could qualify for one of the few scholarships provided - and it worked! I got accepted in the best university in the country (Universidad de Chile) to study Journalism and Communication Studies.
Of course, I was a lucky one among thousand others that everyday fight for a chance like that.
And that's why today I am telling you my story, our story. Because I am also part of that fight, not for me, but for other girls, that are smart, passionate, full of ideas, but don't have the resources nor the information to access to opportunities like the one I had.
Nowadays, there is some great progress in Chile in the fight for a free and equal education for all. The newer generations, born after 1995, are more aware of their rights, especially girls. This has allowed the spreading of a "new conscience", an awareness of our right to be respected, to be seen as equal, and to have the same opportunities as men.
I am thankful for having had the chance to continue my studies further - my life changed and I could change my relative's lives as well. Now I am trying to find the best way to give to other girls that same opportunity, and I guess that through my work in communications for development I am doing a little something.