One thing that I think a lot about while traveling to different areas of Latin America is the role of the woman in each society. In general, I am very thankful to be from the U.S. I am extremely grateful for the blessings that I have in my nation: access to medicine, hospitals and doctors; good education; entrepreneurial opportunities; access to clean water; sanitation and relatively hygienic customs. But above just being grateful that I am a person from the U.S., I am grateful that I am a female from the U.S.
These are just my thoughts on the matter, I have not done any research on this… but I can tell you from observation that the customs and expectations of a woman from the mountains of Copán, Honduras or of an Embera Indian from Darién, Panamá are very different than those of a woman from the United States. In many of these societies being a 22-year-old single female without children is not a very accepted or favorable status to have. (boy am I glad I don’t have to worry about that social expectation) I love these cultures and I respect their traditions but coming from my North-American background I can say that I am thankful for the way I was raised.
I would be interested in hearing from their point-of-view if they ever feel trapped or without options. Of course, if you are accustomed to a way of life to which you have nothing else to compare you most likely are not going to challenge the system. This past week during our medical clinics here in Panama, I saw so many young mothers. (just like what I see during clinics in Honduras but it hit me this time) A thirteen-year-old girl five months into her pregnancy. A seventeen-year-old mother of three. A fourteen-year-old nursing her infant while the 29-year-old grandmother carries their medicine.
The clinics are during the middle of the day so the fathers are working. These young girls bring their families to our clinics by themselves. Just them and their 5 or 6 kids clinging to them. What a responsibility.
I wonder how many of these women actually had the freedom to choose the father of their children? How many of these women would have liked to have a career? Or to see more of their country or the world? How many of these women would have liked to have matured into adulthood before becoming a mother?
I hope that they are respected and appreciated and loved in their homes. I hope that they are able to rest and treat themselves to something they enjoy every now and then. I hope they dream big for themselves and for their children.