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Regional Director for Mesoamerica of the World Conservation Union, the Costa Rican knows the importance of being a woman today and wants to help Latin America grow

Today, it is less difficult to be a woman in Costa Rica because in the past several women fought hard for the right to vote so that today we can be part of national politics and have a less sexist society. I’m not saying that everything is done and dusted, because it is not. There is still a lot to progress. But I believe that the role of women like me, at 50 years old, is to support women who come afterwards, to open the way, to shake hands, to make them feel important, that everything they have studied and that they know have value. Of course, this does not happen in every indigenous community, but I have already seen several of them who work in a matriarchy system in which women have the power to decide. In indigenous communities or not, I believe that men and women can live in peace if we respect each other and we have the same rights. This is what matters. It is not a fight against men; we are struggling for women to be respected on equal terms. And, more than ever, we women have to be in solidarity with each other.

At age of 50, she feels very comfortable; Grethel Aguilar is the regional director of the IUCN, Union for the Conservation of Nature. As a Law graduate, she applies her knowledge in favor of the conservation of natural resources and the well-being of people. She worked with indigenous communities in Latin America for years. “Through them, I got to know more about resources conservation in another way, because it is important to take care of what we have, water and air, but it is equally important to act for indigenous rights. I feel very happy when I get out of bed everyday and I see that I am contributing to something very big”, she says.

For Grethel, we did not learn everything we could have learned from the Indians. “They are vulnerable people, who have many needs and little help. If you are a passionate for the subject, respect and conviction that you can support them, the work becomes very satisfactory. It is good to know that you are contributing to life of these cultures. I keep learning from them, I never stop, but perhaps the most important thing they taught me was respect for Mother Earth, as they call it. It is a respect for a land that gives us food, gives us water, air and that serves us for our whole life. I understood, with them, the idea that the human being is part of a single ecosystem, that we are not something different, but rather one of the species that inhabit the planet.”

Mother of three male children, Grethel took home her care for the environment and the other, in addition to an attitude of less consumerism, which she believes is a way of contributing to the ecosystem. “Since my children were born, I have been committed to my ideals, especially environmental and social well-being and I believe that this is taught to children from a young age. In my house, we do recycling and I get mad if someone doesn’t turn the lights off or takes a long shower. Today, my children see it as something natural, something that is part of our lives, both the rational use of resources and social sensitivity, respect for different cultures and differences of opinion. That’s the only way we can create a wider world, beyond our own family, our own culture, our own country, always respecting and wanting to learn from everyone”.

Grethel also feels like a privileged woman, who could study, live abroad and visit the world, but decided to return to Costa Rica. “My roots are very important to me, because I believe I can contribute better in the region where I belong to, which is Latin America. My heart is in Latin America, I feel comfortable in Latin America. I am a privileged woman because I had the opportunity to study and see the world thanks to my family’s effort. For me this has to be reverted to my community, to my country and to my region”.

Content published in March 31, 2018

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