The International Day of the Girl is a movement started by youth to speak out against gender bias and advocate for girls’ rights everywhere.
Stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes hold girls and women back from living up to their full potential.
These close-minded judgments take place all over the world, from girls like Malala, a Pakistani activist standing up for rights for women, to women like Cecilia, a mother and volunteer in her community of Cali, Colombia.
Cecilia is the mother of four CFCA sponsored children in Cali, Colombia.Before her children were sponsored, the family lived in a small poorly built home made from wood.
Their income was not enough to support the family until they began receiving sponsorship assistance.
But Cecilia’s story begins much earlier, when she was just a girl — a girl who would experience hardship and gender discrimination for many years.
As a child, Cecilia was raised in a home where boys were in charge. Girls and women were available to serve the men and boys and be at their beckon call.
Her struggles taught her that believing in herself was not an option.
“When I was a child, my parents loved my brothers but not me because I was the only girl at home,” she said.
“I had to do the chores and cook the food for my brothers, and my parents did not treat me well.”
Cecilia’s home life wasn’t the only challenge she faced.
Gangs and criminal activity polluted the neighborhood where she grew up.
“I left my home, and I lived for a few years on the streets,” Cecilia said.
Once Cecilia reached adulthood, she started a family with her husband James.
Starting a family was difficult at first, but they shared a deep love with each other and worked hard to build their family.
A new beginning
When Cecilia’s oldest child reached the first grade, she learned about CFCA, and shortly thereafter her four children became sponsored.“When CFCA reached our lives, it was a terrific help for us because we had many needs with our four little children,” she said. “I started to attend CFCA’s local office and I liked their work. It was how I became a volunteer at CFCA.”
Cecilia helps at the CFCA office by delivering lunch to the sponsored children and also distributing benefits to sponsored friends and their families.
Cecilia’s volunteer responsibilities have grown over time, and she also helps other women who are struggling in difficult situations, much like she was long ago.“I will always love CFCA for bringing the opportunity of education to my children,” she said. “I love to serve others. … I tell my children that they have to study hard to help their community and help others.”
Challenges may have stood in Cecilia’s way, but it never stopped her from achieving her dreams.