Abby Weil

Abby Weil (ADIVIMA): Abby completed her undergraduate degree in anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she had the opportunity to serve as a tutor in Lima, Peru. At the time of her fellowship she was pursuing a master of arts in public anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. Abby also interned for the Guatemala Human Rights Commission-USA, promoting human rights in Guatemala through research, educational outreach and advocacy.

We are Present!

14 Jun

Monica Garcia Lopez. She was tiny, could not have been more than twelve years old, and was clothed in the traditional Mayan dress. As she approached the stage and took the microphone I could sense anxiety in her movements as her mother, who was seated in the crowd gently nodded in encouragement.

Monica looked at the ground and stumbled over the first words of her obviously rehearsed speech. We were attending a huge town meeting and debate for the mayoral candidates of the municipality of Rabinal, Guatemala. This particular debate focused on the right to education for the youth of Rabinal and Guatemala. Child labor is a particular problem in Guatemala since many families, especially in rural areas, cannot afford to send their children to school, or need them to work in the home. Due to the machismo present here, it is most often girls that get left out of the opportunity to receive an education.

As Monica continued to speak, she raised her eyes to face the crowd and her confidence clearly swelled. She was speaking to her peers, adults, and most importantly the mayoral candidates that would be in charge of funds for schooling for girls like her. Her voice rose from barely above a shaky whisper to a full blown shout as she claimed her space and made her demands.

“We are here!” she shouted. “The youth of Rabinal are here, and we demand the right to an education! We demand the right to a childhood, the right to play and learn!” She then looked straight into the eyes of the candidates and said “and YOU are responsible! You are responsible for providing us with a childhood, and an education, and we are here to make sure you do!”

Goosebumps began to appear on my arms, and tears swelled in my eyes, as I saw a tiny girl, in rural Guatemala, fight for her rights and assert herself in front of powerful men that were 30, 40 even 50 years her senior. The youth of Rabinal are truly engaged and committed to participating in the democratic processes of their government, and I have been extremely impressed.

At the same time that I have been impressed, I have also felt ashamed. Where are the youth of the United States? Amongst the star-studded “Vote or Die” campaigns and the flashy public service announcements that blanket the American media, why is there not more participation in our country?

The first step to making a difference and making change is simply being there and being aware. While I may have been a little more involved than most young people, I am certainly not above reproach. All of this simply makes me wonder, if we were all like Monica Garcia Lopez, present and shouting our requests, demanding accountability, what would the United States, and in effect the world, look like?

What changes could we make? What peace and social justice could we demand? I only dare to hope that my generation will be able to look up from our cell phones, ipods, computer and and television screens long enough to realize what is happening around us and take advantage of our privileged positions not just for personal gain and enjoyment, but to truly make a difference in the world.

Posted By Abby Weil

Posted Jun 14th, 2007


  • Emma Lee

    June 17, 2007



    Hola! Sadly, I too, fall victim to taking our favorable circumstances for granted more often than not and do not take the opportunity to be involved in what is going on in the USA. Wow, that was so BRAVE of Monica to speak out for the rights of the young women in her community. She is right…They do deserve the right to an education. I am really glad that you wrote this blog…it helped to open my eyes. You are in my thoughts and prayers, my little Happy. Do not get discouraged–>you ARE making a difference in Guatemala. I just know it! You have made such a difference in my life..just by being the special person that you are! I am just a phone call away!


    Emma Lee

    ~:~Although, we are far apart…you are still close in my heart~:~

  • Avery

    July 27, 2007


    Although it SEEMS teenagers these days do not care, I am here to tell you that they do. Yes, we can be lazy, but there are so many groups out there willing to support organizations because they realize what is going on in our world, and know that WE will be the ones leading it soon. I just hope it is not the general assumption that teens never stand up for what is right, and what they can do in our lifetimes.

    I do think that that was very strong of Monica to stand up to those men and strongly support the education in third world countries.

  • Sarah

    July 31, 2007


    I think that we, as teeangers, care in our own way. Some of us have strong beliefs, like myself, and we stand up for what we believe in. Even if it is just debating with their friends, we are still taking a stand.

  • Abby

    August 9, 2007


    Hey Avery and Sarah,

    Thanks so much for both of your comments! I agree with both of you that there are so many young people that are really taking a stand and going out and and changing the world. I think that I may have been to harsh in my post on the way that youth participate in the United States, and I want to thank you for bringing that to my attention. I know that it is always a struggle for me to want to participate when sometimes the odds seem so overwhelming, but you guys helped to remind me not to be cynical (a constant challenge as well!). Thanks so much for reading my blogs. I have really enjoyed your perspectives and comments!


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