“I definitely believe that we can make a change in our society.”
Laura Rodriguez is an independent consultant who works specifically with women and youth in empowerment and political and civic participation. In addition, she is the voluntary general coordinator of an NGO in El Salvador that supports the empowerment and political and civic participation of young people, in violence prevention, and the promotion of a culture of peace. To put it more simply, her job is to tell young people and women “you have many options in your lives.” Many options apart from gangs, drug trafficking, early pregnancy.
When I spoke with Laura, we talked a lot about leadership and possibility, because for her, it is not possible to separate leadership with the possibility of change in the world. We all have the possibility of being a leader for the good, and if we are leading for the good, the world will improve for everyone. When I asked her what it means to be a leader, she gave me a very beautiful and very poignant definition. Leadership, is her words, has a very long but very simple definition. First, “the leader is not the person at the helm directing the activities or actions, she is the person who is at the side of the people collaborating on specific actions that allow social change every day.” It means “having enough humility to understand that we cannot know or do everything and therefore we have the ability to delegate responsibilities and accompany people in those responsibilities too.” It means empathy, accompaniment, listening, love, collaboration, teamwork. Being a leader does not imply, “that other people necessarily follow your directions but that people are also capable of giving you suggestions on your path.” If we can be leaders like that, we will change the world.
In a country like El Salvador, it is not easy to remain inspired and motivated. The country has, like most countries in Central America, many problems. Absent government, powerful and dangerous gangs and drug traffickers. So what inspires Laura? “I am inspired by a better society.” For that better society, she works with young people and women, to empower and get them involved in political and civic life. For this better society, she works as an accompanying leader, who is always walking alongside people, listening. For that better society, she participated in the Certificate programs of the Association for Leadership in Guatemala (ALG) where she learned how to lead from within. “There is a before and after me. Before ALG I was leading from the outside and I was empty. ALG taught me not to let myself get empty… [After] I am a different person, more empathetic, more loving to myself… I am a better person, a better professional.” A person who, without a doubt, is making great changes in the world, not only in her leadership style, but in her style of being and doing. I asked her what she would say if she could say something to each person in the world and, without thinking for a second, she said “believe in yourself, believe with much love and much hope because change is in each of us.”