From where I stand: “There are things for which life doesn’t prepare you”Rosarged López González, 31, was a natural sciences teacher in her homeland, Venezuela. With her husband and 8-year-old daughter, she decided to leave the country due to the social and economic situation, migrating to the city of Cartagena, Colombia, in March of 2018.
We arrived in Cartagena with 10,000 pesos [USD 3] and the few things that we could carry. I had a pre-existing medical condition and was undergoing thyroid treatment, which I had to stop because of lack of resources and information.
In late April, a woman who sold fried food suggested I try that [kind of work]. I’d never done that before. My arms hurt a lot, especially my hands. I wasn’t a woman who spent all day in the kitchen in Venezuela, so it hit me hard. One day, my sister made some oatmeal and raisin cookies to sell. I remember leaving the house with them and I couldn’t contain my tears. I said: 'God: I didn’t come to do this!' After trying various kinds of informal work, I was unemployed for a long time.
There are things for which life doesn’t prepare you. But it was in those moments that I also saw the needs of those arriving. I heard the stories of women resorting to any and all forms of work for survival, including sex work, to send money to their families. They’re young people who’ve often finished their studies and for whom the need to survive and the desperation of not getting a job has led them into cycles of violence and victimization.
All these stories awakened in me a desire to learn and to help. I approached an organization and got involved in activism. Today, I volunteer with a foundation that gives migrant women information and advice on their rights and access to health care. Here, we inform and help them access various programmes to help ease their transition to this new context.
A day in my life is not easy, but I love helping other people. This situation has shown me the important role that all [displaced] women have. Uncertainty leads us to push forward and overcome obstacles to achieve our goals. I have been in need; I have experienced what it is to be a migrant woman. And because of that, I continue working for the rights of migrant women.”
Rosarged López González is currently employed as a fourth-grade teacher at Maria Montessori School in Cartagena, Colombia. She also volunteers for Un Solo Pueblo, the only Venezuelan organization in Cartagena, and is active among Venezuelan women leaders who meet with Colombian women leaders in the dialogue spaces promoted by UN Women under a project funded by USAID.