Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Verónica, Ecuador


“There is a lot of violence that you exercise against yourself because you fail to find coherence between who you are, or what you want to be, or what you dream of being as an activist, as a feminist, as a defender of rights – then you are very pressured to be someone that you really are not and to renounce things that at some point you loved and that are not at all bad but that you think that are not consistent with the being that you are beginning to be. I believe that this is one of the first violence that comes from yourself, to repress yourself, to deny and judge yourself a lot; to be very fundamentalist with yourself.”

Verónica’s Story

I met Verónica while we studied together in high school. She was one of those classmates who you could not miss. Her clear and sweet eyes balanced her strong voice. She would talk about sexual education with so much comfort. I remember being amazed by her wisdom and the words she used. She spoke about things that I had never heard before.

The first time I paid attention to one of the conversations that Veronica had with her friends, I heard her say: “sexual and reproductive rights.” They assigned me homework: research our human rights. I learned about our rights as humans. Still, I didn’t find anything about the rights Verónica was talking about. At first, I thought she was teasing her friends. Still, she sounded so sure. During that afternoon, I continued to research to investigate if was telling the truth.

Veronica has three sisters, one brother, a mother, and a father. Her father was from the Ecuadorian coast and her mother was from Quito. Her relationship with her brother and sister supported her growth and development, especially her sister Ana. She was the one that got involved in social issues and involved the family. She began her militancy at leftist spaces and women and feminist spaces. She revolutionised her family’s life. Verónica discussed the impact that this had on her life, which was not always positive. She remembers her shock when someone would argue and question how different families live.

She came from generations of powerful women that had been head of the family, very revolutionary in their times. Her grandmother was a professional teacher and faced many difficulties during that time. It was highly unusual for a woman to work, study, and not stay at home. Her grandmother revolutionised Veronica’s whole world. She maintained her family’s leadership despite the obstacles and her blindness;  pulling up her whole family. Listening to her made me understand her confidence and the strength of her actions and convictions.

At the age of 12-13, Veronica participated in the promoting team from the first Consultive Council for the Youth and Child in Ecuador. A space organised by the State. The council consulted girls, boys, teenagers, and young people about public policies that impacted them. They were taught about the children and youth code and learned about their rights. Also, how to read the code and use it as a defence mechanism. Veronica remembers elaborating a plan called “Look at my eyes,” which was shared with aspiring candidates for the presidency.

After that experience, Verónica was part of an initiative called Adolescent Ecuador that focused on sexual and reproductive rights. She worked as a teacher for other teenagers on a national level and traveled to meetings and forums during that time.

When she was 14, she organised a protest at her school with her classmates as the school was not going to allow her pregnant classmate to graduate with them. They prohibited her from taking the mandatory test and only allowed her to attend school in the afternoons and without a uniform. The school was penalized with a fine and mandated to let the girl take her test and graduate with her classmates, even including the church’s graduation mass. Everything was supervised by an inspector from the Ministry of Education so he would be able to verify the presence of the girl and compliance of the school. For Veronica, this was her first feminist activism as she was able to see how the rights on the paper translated into reality.

Now, at 30 years of age, Veronica sees herself as a very fortunate person due to all the support she received from her family. She is well aware that not everyone had the same experience or freedom. And recognises the complexities of her experience: “[They want you] as long as you are the young girl who helps them meet their quote. The one who represents them in spaces to show diversity is cool. But when you want to take the lead, have a voice, make your organisation visible or acquire relevance. They don’t like that. There are always disputes about prestige and recognition. Once you reach that point, our presence and participation are no longer required, which turns into a constant fight.”

Veronica shared the importance of questioning everything that society has naturalised, of separating the social fight from the feminist organisation and charity. Our starting point should be to recognise our labour, and our collective dependence. We cannot achieve any change alone. And we must, in Veronica’s words: “Make ourselves uncomfortable and question everything all the time. Feminist activism should not be done from a sacrifice, but joy and transformation.”