"Feeling passionate about what you do has always been the key ingredient for successful outcomes"
Cynthia Brizuela, Inclusive Education Specialist in Latin America and the Caribbean, is very concrete about the things she loves the most about her work at UNICEF
On March 8, it's International Women's Day. This year’s theme is "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world", celebrating the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. At UNICEF, we want to celebrate the achievements of women in leadership positions, and also those who display leadership qualities.
Throughout the whole month of March 2021, the Women's Month, we publish the stories of only a few of the many women who make a difference in UNICEF every day. Today, we host the interview of Cynthia Brizuela Speratti, our Inclusive Education Specialist in UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office.
Find the three to four things you love the most about the work you do, it is important that you can name them and become very concrete about those things. Feeling passionate about what you do has always been the key ingredient for successful outcomes.
Find fun things to do. In UNICEF we know that playing is a key element of child development, but this is also true for adults, playing develops our “happy person”.
Cynthia Brizuela Speratti
Inclusive Education Specialist, Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office (LACRO)
Who are you and what is your role at UNICEF?
My name is Cynthia Brizuela Speratti. I am a Paraguayan woman, from a small southern city named Pilar. Since 2019, I am the Inclusive Education Specialist for the Latin America and the Caribbean regional office in Panama, with the role of regional focal point for disabilities-inclusion.
How did COVID-19 impact your life, both on professional as well as on personal level?
Since March 2020, I have been working from home, and my teenage son, Marco, with Asperger Syndrome, has been schooling from home. As a single mother with no live-in help, Marco and I had to make big adjustments: routines, cooking and cleaning, working/studying spaces. If you know a little about Marco’s syndrome, you’ll know that “uncertainties” are a huge stress factor that generates high level anxieties, which manifests in many unpleasant ways. To cope with the uncertainties and the need to address anxieties we got creative reorganizing the living spaces to also incorporate in-house sports. The first three months of a complete lockdown (in which we could not leave the apartment) were very difficult professionally and personally, though I believe this is true to millions of women worldwide!
Do you think that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionally impacted women, mothers and girls' lives, and how?
From the work we do in UNICEF, we know this is a fact: women and girls have historically suffered from gender discrimination and this only gets worse if they live in a depressed socioeconomic background, are from indigenous population or have a disability. Imagine being an indigenous girl with a disability, living with your single illiterate mother in a rural area in Latin America. Before COVID-19 there was a school she could go to, and where she not only received basic education in her language also food and basic health check-ups. With the pandemic, schools in this region were closed, and a largely digital-based class system was set in place. Most rural areas have very limited internet access and those who live in precarious conditions do not have access to it. Because of COVID-19 the lives of those two women I just described, “the indigenous illiterate mother and her daughter with disabilities”, were drastically impacted. Several millions of such girls are at a very high risk of never going back to school and to become invisible. However, we also know that If we join the efforts and bring most vulnerable children back to school – making sure the schools are better equipped to meet all learning needs - those girls will once again have an opportunity to develop their full potential.
What do you believe are women's strengths, and what are the advantages of female leadership in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic?
Most mothers will agree with me that a woman develops a strong sense of anticipating struggles (which we learned from our children), thus making us great negotiators. This also goes along with intuitive problem solving and strong team-playing competencies. We also practice multitasking and monitoring (from little tasks to those more complex and challenging), and very often need to come with innovative solutions. Women, especially mothers and grandmothers, are resilient. We need to get our intuitive solving problem heads together, be team players, listen, be good negotiators and become resilient to overcome the challenges that COVID-19 is creating.
What is your advice to women navigating their careers during a health crisis, as well as in a post COVID-19 pandemic world?
Find the three to four things you love the most about the work you do, it is important that you can name them and become very concrete about those things. Schedule some activities (meeting/writing/reading) that will engage/involve/stimulate those things you love about your work. Feeling passionate about what you do has always been the key ingredient for successful outcomes. Same goes with things you love to do for recreational purposes: reading, painting, sawing, cooking, sports, dancing, watch movies. Learn something new, whether inside or outside of work. Find “channels of escape” with a person outside your family circle, could be friends or specialists to whom you can talk things through and not feel alone. Find fun things to do with your family/loved ones. In UNICEF we know that playing is a key element of child development, but this is also true for adults, playing develops our “happy person”.