I am writing to you – one 15-year-old in a million - but my message is for all of the women in the world. Hortencia, I want to tell you something, and then I want you to tell two other women, and each of those two women will tell two women. Do you think we can reach all of us?
Too many times people tell you what you can’t do because you’re female. You were born into a place where women “can’t” do a lot of things. I want to tell you what you can do, I want to talk and talk and talk about the things that you can do until you understand that there is nothing you can’t do. Being female can be inconsequential or crucial. It shouldn’t matter, but it’s everything. In Nauela, there is a division between men and women that has rarely been crossed. It’s actively maintained by all of us, but now I want to rip it apart, and I need you to help. It’s not the job of one person, it’s the job of all the people who are being choked by this thick black line. I don’t want to hear anymore that we can’t do something because women don’t do that. I want to do those things to show that women can do them. But I need your help. I know what you can do, and you can do anything. But it’s not enough for me to know, you too need to know what you can do, and believe it.
YOU CAN SPEAK. You can speak and you can be heard. Speak until someone hears you, and don’t stop there. Speak with confidence. Hortencia, take your hand away from your mouth when you speak. You can look straight at the person you’re speaking to. Why do you avert your eyes? You don’t have to speak in a whisper, or just move your lips with no sound coming out. You can make noise. Make a lot of noise.
YOU CAN SAY NO. If someone is pressuring you to do something you don’t want to do, you don’t have to do it. You have the right to refuse. You don’t have to stay silent and submit. Talk to someone who can help you. You don’t have to be 15 and pregnant like so many of your classmates. I want to see you finish school. I want to see you earn the grades you earn, not the grades that a teacher decides to give you because you did or did not satisfy his wishes.
YOU CAN SAY YES. We are all human. It’s natural, and normal, and ok, to want something. You can say when you want something. You don’t have to use false charm, flirt your way through, or stand there hoping someone will notice you. If you want something, say it. Speak up. If you have a dream, pursue it. Have a dream.
YOU CAN RAISE YOUR HAND. You are as intelligent as your male classmates. Show them that. Show them up. Show them who you are. Speak up in class. Swarm the chalk container when I ask for volunteers. Race them to the board. Drown them out with your answers. Grab the spots on the benches, instead of always sitting on the floor. You have an opinion, and it’s just as valid as others.
YOU CAN PLAY SOCCER. I want to see you kicking the ball, not being kicked off the field yourself. When you hear someone snickering “she plays like a girl,” raise your head proudly and say, “yes we do.” Sometimes you have to fight back. Sometimes you have to demand respect. Sometimes you have to rob the ball to get attention. Kick your way through, if that’s what it takes.
YOU CAN BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE. You deserve to have a bright future. If you want to get a good education, you deserve that. It’s not your obligation to get married young, have kids when you’re still a kid, and quit school while your husband continues living his life. You can work and earn your own money. You can have a great personality! You don’t have to mold to what society tells you a women should be. You can be bold, tell jokes, be sarcastic, talk back, be witty, be tough. Whoever you are, you can let that person out.
YOU CAN. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t.
From one woman to another,