Nadia Sanchez, the woman behind the program “She’s an Astronaut”

The founder and president of the She Is Foundation accompanied girls from Colombia, Peru and Ecuador on their tours of NASA at the height of the She Is an Astronaut program.

Photo: Courtesy She Is Foundation

A month ago, 35 girls from Colombia embarked on a week-long trip that took them to the NASA Space Center in Houston, USA. Two weeks later, girls from Ecuador and Peru made the same trip.

After four months of training from their homes, girls and youth between the ages of 8 and 15 were able to experience a NASA immersion through the She’s an Astronaut project led by the She’s Foundation, which also encourages the participation of girls and women in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for its acronym in English).

Colombian Nadia Sánchez, founder of She Is, is responsible for accompanying the processes of these girls and managing projects in Latin America that promote gender equality work in which women and girls who are in vulnerable groups are a priority.

In addition to empowering girls in academic fields that have low female participation, women’s entrepreneurship and economic empowerment is another priority of the foundation. The fourth edition of the She Is Global Forum will take place between November 9 and 11, a place where the work of 17 women in different sectors is rewarded, the private and public sectors discuss strategies to progress towards equality, and entrepreneurs present their projects.

“I realized that my purpose in life is to serve and generate impactful projects that change the lives of women and girls. That’s why one day I decided to leave my comfort zone to come to Colombia with a social commitment, with titanic programs like Ella es Astronauta or the empowerment centers, but also with the aim of creating the biggest forum in Latin America. in gender equality,” says Sanchez.

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Sanchez, who worked at the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization of American States before founding She Is and was recognized as one of the 60 most important leaders in the world by the World Woman Foundation, spoke about the importance of the forum to held in Cartagena and her organization’s strategies to impact more and more girls and women in Latin America.

At what point did you decide to prioritize working with girls in STEM fields?

We work with women all over Colombia and we saw that part of the reason they abandoned their learning processes was that they were mothers who were heads of households and had no one to leave their sons and daughters with while they participated in the seminars. There we saw an opportunity for girls to start attending the programs, to generate a process of entrepreneurship and empowerment in them.

It is from children that opportunities are forged and forged, they are not the generation of the future, but rather the generation of the present. When there are children growing up in hostile or vulnerable environments, then we must work the hardest for them, especially the girls who are most exposed.

What is the impact of the show “She’s a Cosmonaut” in the lives of the participants?

With “Ella es Astronauta” we have once again positioned the program as one of those with the greatest impact on social innovation in Latin America. The girls are back and in the process of transitioning their interests to university and entrepreneurial projects.

What’s next for the foundation after consolidating the program into an alliance with NASA?

A process of reproduction of all these entrepreneurial projects follows, and since the foundation we have been working in parallel on the She Is Global Forum, which is one of the largest forums in Latin America for gender equality. We bring together everything that is done in terms of social impact in a 360 ecosystem where we integrate public and private actors and women’s organizations to make visible practices that contribute to gender equality.

What is the purpose of the She Is Global forum?

Let it reach millions of women around the world and become a global movement. This not only raises awareness about the importance of breaking stereotypes, but also generates good practices for gender equality so that everyone vibrates in the same direction, which is to have gender equality in everyone’s DNA and that this issue no i don’t do it out of obligation.

This year our theme will be “Women of the Future” and is focused on all organizations that are thinking about how we imagine ourselves and what we are doing so that the women of the future are in a 50-50 world in all areas.

How are these meetings helping to counter the negative effects the pandemic has had on women’s rights and employability?

What we are doing is putting on the table a global post-pandemic agenda, what are the practices and economic activation of women locally, from the interior, from rural areas, and how companies, beyond their social responsibility processes, begin to generate sustainable processes in time in their areas of diversity and inclusion. We all talk about gender equality, but what processes are in place to sustain this work in the long term.

How is Latin America doing on gender equality?

The pandemic gave us a before and after. Clearly, post-pandemic, greater efforts must be made so that more women have access to opportunities. The pandemic has demonstrated the lack and inequality that exists in informality, in access to work, education and quality of life, Latin American countries are setting the standard on how to generate ecosystems that allow barriers to be overcome so that more and more women can reached leadership positions not only in business, but also in politics, culture and other areas to which they normally did not have easy access.

And in Colombia?

Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Mexico are making great efforts at the Latin American level to position themselves on the global agenda as these leaders towards gender equality. The foundation has a presence in five countries: Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, but Colombia is the main headquarters and benchmark as a promoter of gender equality.

Progress in Colombia is to have a gender equality policy, to have different guidelines in all areas, to have funds. This differentiation is the beginning of work for a more just society.

How to protect environmental leadership where there is high participation of women?

In Colombia, social and environmental leaders are the ones most exposed, and to protect them, all women leaders who work for their territories, for the environment, against climate change, must be visible.

Before becoming Vice President, Francia Márquez spent two consecutive years in our forums leading and speaking about the struggle for territory, and this is where we made these strategies visible and created a circle of protection. Many murdered social and environmental leaders happen because their struggle is a struggle that we do not see, that we do not hear. We want to make visible the work they do in their territories, the issues and initiatives they lead.

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What actions does She Is take outside of the annual forum?

During the year we have different initiatives, some focused on STEM education with girls, in the program Ella es astronauta; another aimed at women between the ages of 18 and 55, which is the construction of social and economic innovation centers in the country, where we encourage and strengthen female entrepreneurship and other activities such as the creation of a book of good practices for gender equality with different companies.

In the other countries, we have women’s networks and we run the “She’s an Astronaut” program. But in addition to reaching more countries, we are working to understand each context to provide greater opportunities in Latin America.

How is working together with the public sector going?

The Foundation is apolitical, but we aim to work with all governments as well as the private sector. Our relationship with the current government is very close and we want to continue working to achieve investment and social impact projects and position Colombia as an example of gender equality.

Because it is Colombia before the world, we work hand in hand with the government to promote those initiatives that can serve in the National Development Plan and continue to strengthen programs for women.

How is the work of the foundation going by region?

We have built social innovation centers for women in four departments, in Putumayo, Arauca, Tolima and Cundinamarca. We have developed more than 286 projects around peace building, innovation and entrepreneurship and women’s economic empowerment. Every year we host 300 women in these houses to accompany their learning, organization, employability and entrepreneurship processes.

With Ella es Astronauta, we reached 32 departments of Colombia, where we articulate networks of women and girls.

During the forum, what place will entrepreneurs have in the forum?

We will have a room dedicated to innovation tank, a space where all women can apply and present their ventures to investors and accelerators during these three days. We will have women with business ideas, startups and enterprises to pitch.

We will have a pavilion where they will have multi-sensory technology experiences where they can have their companies, make their work visible and look for marketing alternatives.

Who will be able to present their businesses in the forum?

Women who have nascent enterprises, business ideas, startups that have been operating for up to three years can apply. Forums also serve to create collaborative networks that may be needed across sectors. We bring together international cooperation, investors, private sector, public sector, civil society, which have better networks on gender issues.

If you would like to present your business during the She Is Global Forum, please note that the call is open until October 15th. Here you can know the basics of participation.

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