Early in the morning, many Mexicans learn about violent crimes or corruption scandals through newspaper or TV and go to bed after closely watching their preferred primetime news show to discover more deaths and acts of terror. Needless to mention the conversations held at work and/or school where even more terrifying stories are shared.
This was the daily scenario for over two years and officially began on December 2006 when President Felipe Calderon decided to declare the war against drugs. I live and grew up in Monterrey, Mexico a place once known as Latin America's safest and most affluent city. All this has changed. Since the war against drugs began over 60,000 people have died and thousands more disappeared across the country.
At the time I was a journalist and would question my colleagues about their lack of interest to spread positive news during Mexico's darkest time. How could anyone believe in any other kind of reality when all of Mexico's media outlets only talk about violent & obscure crimes? Fear became Mexico's owner.
I grew tired of being jailed by fear and decided to take on a personal quest to find 21st century Gandhis, Mother Theresas, Einsteins, etc. I strongly believed there were hundreds of people doing amazing work whose lives transformed communities but somehow we simply did not hear about them in Mexico.
On May 2009 I learned about Zainab Salbi who founded Women for Women International through her TIME 100 article on Hadizatou Mani, who survived slavery in Niger. Zainab wrote: "It is not easy to know you are worth more than what you are being told, to know you have the right to stand up against injustice, to know the world is still beautiful and safe despite its horrors".
I felt it... She was one of those leaders. A month later I was in New York City ready to interview Zainab. Little did I know, meeting Zainab would change my life. I became exposed to how important it is for women to become involved in decision-making processes and their impact in any community when given access to education and empowered regardless of their culture or social class. After the interview, I dreamed of sharing my experience beyond an article.
Two years ago many would secretly express this war could end if those causing such horrible crimes would simply be killed. The majority wasn't interested in understanding the root causes. Something has shifted since then. Today, many more are expressing their need to help in any way possible to restore peace. The question is how? What can I do to help and where can I start?
I understand that feeling. At 22, I deprived myself from sleep during six months, long before this war began. I was kidnapped by my own fear until one night I came to realize this fear came from wanting to be of service to others, help, make a difference but I doubted myself and would say "What can I do? I'm only a 22 year old girl from Monterrey... who will care and what will I even do?" I decided to ignore those thoughts and trust there was something I could do, a purpose to being alive.
Early this year a group of friends and I crafted the I Am Here Series -- a platform which includes conferences, workshops and community building projects during four months where we aim to serve women and help them recognize their own potential to create positive changes.
We presented our project to 800 of Monterrey's wealthiest and educated women ages 18 to 75 on May. Agapi Stassinopoulos and Marianne Williamson were not only our keynote speakers but in a sense our godmothers as well and both shared key lessons that night. Agapi taught us we should believe in ourselves, boost our self-confidence and no matter what, be our true selves. Marianne advised us as women we should expand our capacity to love towards every child we come across regardless if we have children or not. Simple yet powerful beyond measure. Their presence and message struck a cord amongst all of us that night.
This so-called war on drugs is barely about drugs anymore. As Nobel Laureate Jody Williams declared early this year, "The war on drugs is becoming a war on women." All the silence, grief, and pain must be stopped.
This fall we will be joined in Monterrey by Abby Disney, Kathy LeMay, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Patti Smith, Alice Walker and Zainab Salbi who will all share their journeys and learned lessons as we come to terms with our infinite feminine potential to shift how we look at war and how we look at peace. Perhaps then things could be different. These inspiring women have taught me it is possible, it is latent.
However, I must be honest and confess I have no idea about war, any war at all but I am learning about peace and it starts from within. This is a declaration to free ourselves from our unconsciously yet self-inflicted fear jails. We are here to tip off the balance in favor of love. And as I continue my own quest I can only be grateful for this experience to serve and enjoy the process as well as the opportunity to not only witness but to be part of this moment in history. To be here.