Voices of Youth Inspire! "Be grateful to life and acknowledge the support of the people who guide you"
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Please, tell us your name and age:
Zenaida Pérez Gutiérrez, 29 years old.
Where are you originally from and where do you currently live?
I am from Santa María Tlahuitoltepec, Mixe, in Mexico and I currently live in Oaxaca City, the state capital.
According to your business card – what’s your job title?
I am Chief of Department of Indigenous Women's Rights, a department that addresses the situation of indigenous people in the state. Some of my functions include the design and implementation of programs and projects, diffusion, recognition and respect for the indigenous women's rights as well as implementing and proposing programs and projects that promote their participation in community life, incorporating their own vision, proposals and aspirations.
Besides this institutional job, I work on independent actions of communication such as collaborative radio series, specifically in soap opera format, to promote rights and life without violence for women and translated into the language I speak.
I have also facilitated diffusion workshops on both women and indigenous people rights, and recently I have been invited to be graduate teacher statewide.
In the last year, as part of the institutional process, I have been part of a reforms package on indigenous issues, to the constitutional reform in Oaxaca state, where I have raised the issues of women's right to participate, and from the communication field, the respect to the indigenous people to manage and administer their own media, as recognized by the declarations and treaties.
And how does that compare with what you wanted to do when you were 10 years old?
It is related, because I wanted to be present in those spaces where decisions are made, I wanted to know the work of the people that define the direction of the community, except for the case of the city the state which was not clear, because I thought my village was so remote and unique, isolated from other cultures or societies, but thanks I decided to continue studying, today I have a bigger picture and I am participating in it.
Give us 10 words that describe your typical work day?
Challenge, responsibility, reward, recognition, partnerships, learning, knowledge, camaraderie, empowerment, advocacy.
In a nutshell, how did you get to where you are right now? Name some of the most important milestones.
After my academic training, I did community work and I performed duties as requested by the community; I also kept links with the outside world and I was invited to other states and other countries to socialize this local learning. Some of these experiences I can mention: my participation in Jënpoj Community Radio based in my town, after which I became promoter of Productive Organization Programme for Indigenous Women in a nearby community belonging to the same region. Then I strengthened my independent actions as broadcaster and documentary filmmaker. I was later involved with an NGO working on the rights of indigenous women in my region and also continue my academic training with short courses both in class and online.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get to your current position and how did it help you to grow as a person?
The uncertainty of going to work in a space that is unknown, I had never participated in the institutions, my background was from the people and organizations. Another challenge was whether to accept the job, as I feared being unable to fulfill the responsibilities that involve being in that work space. An important point was also the clash between two ways of thinking, the indigenous people’s way and the city people’s way, and the fact of requiring a job as assistant or as head in the area I was invited to work in.
How important was your choice of degree/field of study at university for what you’re doing now?
Fundamental, without it, I would not have made it all the way; without it, I would not be equipped to look for solutions to the issue I now work on. It gave me all the tools to build communication products, and even better to combine it with the thematic of gender, because now the media and social networks have become a crucial element for building agendas. In our field of work, ways of communicating that are not sexist or discriminatory are needed.
What are the top three things someone needs to excel in your field?
You should like your work, be a productive and creative person when facing challenges or threats, and committed to yourself, have faith in your work and in your own person.
What do you think is the MOST important thing governments and/or companies can do to help young people get started in their careers? And to indigenous people?
Generate temporary or part-time employment programs, with flexible hours, so that youth with low income have a source of income that contributes to the financing of their education.
Implementation of student housing programs, with basic food and lodging, so that more boys and girls have the opportunity to get an education and the implementation of financing programs for youth entrepreneurship projects, so when young people finish their career, they can have a space to land their ideas and strength at the end of that cycle.
On a lighter note, tell us about the strangest day you’ve ever had at work or the strangest thing you had to do?
When we had a gift exchange that we usually do on Friendship day, my mates proposed an exchange of cards in order to not spend too much money, so I encouraged them to do an exchange of small pots, which would serve at the same time to adorn our office spaces. At first, I saw them look discouraged, but on the day of the exchange, I was so pleased when I saw the boardroom full of flowers, full of life and green plants.
Some words to youth out there: What advice can you give them when chasing their dream position?
Trust your talent, in your dreams, concentrate your energies on this; be grateful to life and acknowledge the support of the people who guide you, that bring you the clarity to go with firm steps and not get lost along the way. Listen carefully to older people the same way, take the opinions of those who give them to you. If there are people who want to discourage you, do not to give them the joy of watching you going back. On the contrary, you have to move forward and learn to weave your support networks. But mostly it implies preparation, knowledge of the context, sense of ethics and responsibility towards others and towards yourself.