Student Story
07 June 2019

Volunteering for Women's Empowerment

Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, Boroka Godley went on a volunteer trip to Mexico during her undergraduate studies in 2015. The experience gave her the impetus to seek out a Master in Development Studies in order to empower women in developing country contexts and help them find the road to equality.

I worked as a British Council Teaching Assistant in a small town called Guanajuato and I volunteered part time at a local language school, Escuela Falcon. As a Teaching Assistant, I taught four hours of English each day and also held an informal “English Conversation Club”. During these sessions I got to know my students very well; oftentimes we would end up chatting for hours about culture, history, family, dreams and boyfriends, conversations that both inspired and haunted me. One woman, Maria Jesus, told me about how she decided to marry her boyfriend at 18, but she soon found herself in an abusive relationship with two young children. She gained the courage to tell her parents, file the divorce papers and take her children away from the dangerous situation. Eventually, she enrolled in a university to be able to provide a better future for herself and her children. 

As a volunteer at Escuela Falcon, I coordinated donation funds for a local community project. When we visited the local communities to distribute the products, I met many young women with similar life experiences and stories as that of Maria Jesus. I became a mentor and a friend to these young women; by sharing our stories, we found mutual strength in friendships that formed. After my volunteer experience, a few of the girls I came to know went on to study at university while others pursued vocational careers; however, all have told me that they benefitted from our exchanges and friendship. 

These young women inspired me in many ways. Their determination encouraged me to consider the manner in which I look at the world: I understood the significance of walking in someone else’s shoes before passing judgement about their life.  I became aware of the intricacies of intercultural communication and the importance of empathy without pity. When I returned from Mexico, I found a new passion for gender-related issues as well as education in developing contexts. Online, I discovered development studies at the Graduate Institute and, particularly drawn to the interdisciplinary aspect of the course, I applied and was accepted. Since beginning my studies, I joined the Feminist Collective, which seemed like the perfect medium to express my opinions about the gender wage gap, inequalities in the workplace and the media's portrayal of women, enhanced by engaging activities such as film screenings, the Feminist Reading Group and informal gatherings. 

In the future, I hope to use my academic grounding in development related issues, as well as my experiences in Mexico and beyond, to contribute positively to promoting women’s rights all over the world. I would like to focus my thesis on a gender-related issue that will make a meaningful contribution to this field.