Why Opportunity Means Everything to Me
I can think of few authors that could open Adelante’s Book of the Month Club better than Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. While their work doesn’t focus on Latin America, their arguments align closely with the principles upon which Adelante was founded. Like Kristof and WuDunn, Adelante upholds the idea that the greatest barrier between impoverished women and entrepreneurial success can be summed up in one word: opportunity.
Family portrait of Louise with her siblings, parents, and grandparents in 1934.
When reflecting on my own opportunities, I think back to the women of my family who came before me, particularly my 97-year-old Great Grandma Louise and now-deceased Great Grandma Connie. Louise is the second of twelve children, born in New York to poor Italian immigrant parents. Connie arrived at Ellis Island from Italy as an eight-year-old girl. Before their teenage years hit, both of them had dropped out of school in order to work full-time to support their families.
Their hard work alongside my great-grandfathers, who also came from Italian immigrant families, paid off. Their children graduated high school, obtained steady jobs, and subsequently provided their children with even greater opportunities. Their diligence allowed them to open doors for their children and grandchildren that had been closed to them. While they valued their work immensely, the emphasis for their children and grandchildren has always been education, as they saw this as the path to greater success.
Their stories, aside from teaching me about my roots, have shaped my understanding of how the opportunities we receive and create for ourselves can transform families and communities. In spite of innumerable difficulties, my grandparents always persevered.
Up until the day my Grandma Connie passed at 94 years old, I remember being impressed by her quick wit, and I often wonder what she could have accomplished with greater educational opportunity. Nonetheless, both have always looked forward, beaming with pride for whatever we – their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren – accomplish. There are so many women like my great-grandmothers here in Honduras, eager to provide for their families but lacking the opportunity to do so.
My Grandma Gloria, daughter of Louise, tells me that the surroundings and experiences I find myself in here in Honduras are reminiscent of her mother’s childhood and her own. Although it’s meant in jest, she’s right – the women I’ve met and the struggles they face remind me of the challenges that my great-grandparents faced. This serves as a constant reminder of the value of the work that Adelante carries out in rural areas throughout Honduras, and the potential that these hard-working women hold.
Nicholas Kristof’s dedication to shining light on the oppression that women and girls face made me a fan of his work from the start. However, I admittedly haven’t yet read Half the Sky. Make it your New Year’s resolution to join me, and stay tuned for a follow-up post later this month. Later this year, we can also check out A Path Appears, their most recent book which was released just a few months ago.
If you need some more convincing (or just inspiration), check out Sheryl WuDunn’s TED Talk in which she discusses the oppression of women and girls, visit their movement’s website, or check out the following articles written by Kristof:
“So Similar, So Different” Published June 22, 2014: Contrasts the lives of two young, capable women and how the “lottery of birth” often has a lasting impact on the rest of their lives.
“Twitter, Women and Power” Published October 23, 2013: Presents a business argument for equality among men and women, and the positive impact that a diverse board can have on a company’s performance.
“Doughnuts Defeating Poverty” Published July 4, 2012: Follows the story of Alfred Nasoni and Biti Rose, a couple in Malawi who benefited from Biti’s participation in a savings group to initiate entrepreneurial activities and lead their families out of poverty.