That was the headline NPR used for this story earlier this week, and I have been contemplating precisely why the media outlet included the word "rural." Here's the gist of who the 15 year-old-Emelin is—the why she is in the news: She spoke this week at the UN by invitation, in the "Every Woman Every Child" program, part of the Commission on the Status of Women. Emelin spoke about the obstacles girls face in her community and how she and a friend persuaded the mayor to implement and fund policies to help.
Having read the story, I surmise that the word "rural" is intended to convey backwardness, but then it seems all of Guatemala could be said to suffer from that malady. Here's an excerpt of the story that discusses the young woman situation and motivation:
Emelin lives in Concepción Chiquirichapa, which is located in the rural western highlands of Guatemala. Ninety-five percent of the population (including Emelin) are Maya Mam, an indigenous group that was one of the most persecuted during Guatemala's civil war. Only about 14 percent of girls there finish secondary school and about half have their first child by the age of 18, according to Denise Raquel Dunning, the founder and executive director of Let Girls Lead, a nonprofit organization that trains adolescents to advocate for education and health rights for girls and women.
And Let Girls Lead lived up to its name. It gave Emelin and her friend Elba a chance to make a difference in their community. Through a Let Girls Lead initiative, the two teenagers met Juany Garcia Perez, who worked with the group and another nonprofit focused on girls' leadership. Juany became their mentor, teaching them about self-esteem, human rights, community organizing and public speaking. And they used these skills to make an impression on their village.Now, it seems, Emelin and Elba have made an impression on the world—or at least had their 15 minutes of fame. I hope their message about empowering girls—whether rural or urban—sticks!