PODEROSAS COLOMBIA- MARIANA SANZ DE SANTAMARIA
Mariana is the creator of an initiative called Poderosas. As a young girl at school,
Mariana had tripled the 80 mandatory hours of social service without any
problem; one day before graduating she went as a volunteer teacher to Kenya,
Africa; then to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; she returned to provide
community service in Bogotá, in the Fenicia and Las Cruces neighborhoods; and
when she graduated with a law degree from the Universidad de los Andes she
went to Barú with the program Teach for Colombia.
It was there that she created this project to which she has invested money, mind,
heart and more than 18 hours of work a day since 2018. On the beautiful beaches
of Barú she discovered that her way of doing social justice was through sex
“I knew that education was the way to achieve changes, although I never
thought that my calling would be feminism and women's rights, but when I
arrived in Barú, the gender issue slapped me. That no one talked about it began
to eat away at my body, ”
She was a social studies and English teacher, however, the gender inequalities,
the sexual violence, the taboos that were behind the recognition of the body, the
fact that her students missed one or two days every month because of
menstruation and that teenage pregnancies were completely normal for the
community, made her realize that she had to teach about rights, because that
was what she knew and felt that Barú needed.
The first thing she thought of was creating a space to talk about menstruation and
menstrual cups. That would be the excuse to get into a broader topic about
sexuality and everything that was overlooked. The school where she was working
as a teacher, the only public one in Barú, did not allow her to give these talks
during the school day. She looked for a community house where she could gather
the young women of the community. It took several months to break down some
of the invisible barriers that hung around the community. Many young women
threw away or did not use menstrual cups, but it was enough for one or two to be
encouraged to convince the others.
The Poderosas workshops, are places for dialogue and a discussions where all the
young women build knowledge along with their mentors. They include
appropriate background music for each activity. They are like a mix between
dance, meditation and oratory.
There are also many activities they do together such as reading, drawing,
characterization of the territory in which they live and mantras. The mantras are
repetition of phrases that aim to raise the self-esteem of young people and
convince them of how powerful they are.
Mariana implements the learning circle methodology, which consists of a small
group of teachers meeting around the same motivation in order to generate
strategies to improve learning, share new projects and solve problems.
“In order for other powerful mentors who are with me to be able to have these
conversations and teach young women that there are some rights that we can
assert, many other women had to go through who talked about what was not
talked about, who were threatened, rejected, who had to manifest themselves
and that they even gave their lives”, explains Mariana Sanz.
For this reason, day after day they work so that Poderosas serves as a bridge
where these struggles don’t only remain on paper but connect with the places
they have to reach. In total, they have reached 21 municipalities in Colombia, 10
departments and 3 countries: Peru, Mexico and Austria.
“I want Poderosas to be the largest sex education organization in the country,
nothing less than that. And that the young women we have trained continue to reach other territories and can work as mentors within the entity. If I achieve that, I can die in peace."