Isidora Guzmán: "Action from inclusion, considering the variety of realities experienced by women around the world".
At the age of 16, Isidora Guzmán, a young Chilean activist, already has among her achievements the development of an app that helps people with disabilities to find adequate parking spaces in her municipality. She was born prematurely, at six months of gestation, which resulted in cerebral palsy and spastic diplegia, which affected her motor skills and led her to use a wheelchair. She has focused her activism on the struggle to create greater awareness of disability and advance towards universal accessibility. She is an advisor to Tenemos que Hablar de Chile (Chile, We have to Talk) and participates as an ambassador of the Tremendas collective in the area of inclusion, where she contributes to the promotion of sustainable cities and communities.
Date: Thursday, July 15, 2021
Photo: Courtesy of Isadora Guzmán
How and when did your interest in feminism arise?
I think I was always in an environment that taught me the value of feminism, because my parents and my maternal grandmother raised me without barriers or stereotypes, teaching me that nothing and no one could put limits to achieve my goals. Of course, I would later learn that those values would be based on a movement created by courageous, determined women who sought their freedom from a system that had been oppressing them for years.
I remember an episode that marked a before and after, that ended up giving me the strength I needed to make sure I felt feminism as part of my life. In 2017, I was out of the school system for over 7 months. During that period of academic exclusion, in the search for another establishment, I felt that I did not fit in, that only my family understood me; it was then that I discovered that feminism and all that it encompassed both individually and collectively, was a means to find myself again, understanding that being a woman with a disability I could raise my voice regardless of my age.
Over the years I continued studying this movement and decided to become an activist for inclusion and an intersectional feminist. Intersectionality allows us to analyze each person's characteristics and how these can affect the possibilities of exclusion or of living in a better situation.
What was your participation in the Equality Generation Forum?
My participation in the Generation Equality Forum was in the panel "The education of girls" where, together with other activists, we discussed the role of education in advancing gender equality and why it is so important for us.
I stressed the importance of inclusive education and the consideration of the concept of intersectionality when making public policies, because when educating we must consider the diversity of our society, whether in tastes, ways of learning, and even ways of developing in the educational community and from that difference, bring out the greatest potential of each of the students.
Why did you choose the cause of inclusion?
I decided to become an activist for inclusion because I live with a disabling condition that has made me experience inequality firsthand, realizing that there is misinformation and little empathy in society towards those people who have been discriminated against throughout history, causing us to be left out of a society that does not accept differences.
By enforcing inclusion, which is my cause, society can change the exclusionary paradigm, providing each person with specific tools so that they can live in dignity without any barriers. I advocate for inclusion in general and not solely for disability, because we all deserve to find our place in the world. My cause connects with feminism because women strive for every person to have freedom and equality, in search of a better world.
How will you give continuity from your platform to the commitments assumed in the Generation Equality Forum?
When I was 13 years old, I understood the problems faced by people with disabilities. I created an application that helps people find a parking space in the city, using a system of censors.
One of the most common problems is the lack of mobility. This helped them to move around the city in a more autonomous way. This is how I started to work on reducing the inequality gap that some people live with.
Later, I concluded that, in order to expand my project, I had to scale it up and that's how I created Encuentra Tu Lugar (Find Your Place), a collaborative platform that today is in the process of becoming a foundation.
This organization intends to help people find inclusive and accessible places, and has several sections such as Find Your School, Find Your Vocation, Find Your Panorama, Find Your Rights, Find Your Support, Find Your Job and Find Your Parking.
To achieve the objectives, I created the concept of inclusive agent that can be anyone who assumes the responsibility to help their community, contributing with ideas or information of inclusion and universal accessibility, helping those who do not have these possibilities.
The platform is an organization that contributes to making the world an inclusive and accessible place for people with disabilities, with over 50 inclusive agents of different ages, trades and professions, who advocate for inclusion from a human rights perspective.
In relation to the commitments made at the Generation Equality Forum, my organization contributes from intersectionality, because in my country gender inequality exists, and it is even worse when it comes to being a woman with a disability.
The facts are clear. In Chile, 2 out of every 3 people with disabilities are women, so there are many areas to work on, such as in the field of employment. In Chile we are more women than men with disabilities, but companies hire more men with disabilities than women. In 2019, there were only 4,446 women hired out of 8,790 men with disabilities. In Encuentra Tu Lugar we work from intersectionality, knowing that it is difficult for people with disabilities to be included, but for girls and women with disabilities it is twice as difficult.
How do instances such as those in Mexico and Paris benefit progress towards gender equality?
I believe that these instances make gender equality more visible because there are circumstances that are invisible or silenced daily. It is time to put the issues that have never been discussed on the table; for example, when I talk about women and disability, I often receive comments such as "men with disabilities are also important", "men with disabilities are also discriminated against" and of course it is true, but without gender equality, women with disabilities will continue to be twice as discriminated against, apart from the fact that, normally, disability is linked to poverty.
Everything that happened in the Forum makes the authorities and representatives of States connect with girls and women, understanding why it is important to achieve equality and thus, speed up the implementation of public policies in this aspect.
Additionally, the Generation Equality Forum allowed those girls who are growing up to see themselves represented. This makes them understand how important it is for them to raise their voices to change the world. This type of event contributes to the fact that, from anywhere, they can get to know and act for what affects us today, creating spaces that were impossible to create before.
In general, what ideas do you propose to push the gender equality agenda forward and really achieve the Paris commitments?
I think that action must be driven from inclusion, taking into consideration the variety of realities that women live throughout the world. We need to move away from the traditional model and connect from intersectionality.
We need equal access to education, which should be taught from childhood with an inclusive approach, because it generates respect and empathy.
If students recognize and value differences, both in gender and in other aspects of life, from the first years of schooling, in the future we will find people trained in inclusion, as well as women and men with inclusive consciences.
States must promote public policies that strengthen this idea of educating with an inclusive approach, creating educational proposals focused on promoting equal rights for their communities and ensuring access to this type of education.