Growing up in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, I always knew I wanted to work on girl empowerment and the rights of women. I wanted to be an activist for women’s rights, and learned about Girl an organization that strives to advance opportunities for girls to be leaders. It’s a club-based initiative that supports projects that focus on women’s rights and builds awareness of current challenges for women in Mexico and elsewhere.

Not long after I learned about the organization, I founded a Girl Up club in Ciudad Juárez –Girl Up Fronterizas. Who knew all it would take was one Google search and a group of aspiring women that are committed to girl empowerment.

A couple of months later, I heard about a Positive Peace Workshop being held by Rotary and the Institute of Economics and Peace Mexico. After attending the workshop and a follow up training for trainers, I was accepted into the Rotary Positive Peace Activator program and on my way to becoming a Rotary Positive Peace Activator. I had no idea how much impact this workshop would have on my goals, and my work with Girl Up, or the way in which I viewed issues of girl empowerment and women’s rights.

Although I was a committed activist for women’s rights, it wasn’t until I attended the workshop that I realized that my entire discourse was coming from the wrong perspective. I was focusing on violence and conflict – where instead I should have been talking about Positive Peace, and how my efforts on girl empowerment can support that.

Following the workshop, I founded the group, Activators de Paz Ciudad Juárez – or Peace Activators of Ciudad Juárez – a group that trains other agents of change and develops Positive Peace content for schools. Using the IEP methodology, the group also explores the possibility of creating indicators that measure Positive Peace in our communities at the municipal level.

I have now had the opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge in more than 10 forums, conferences, and trainings. One time, while working in a women’s shelter, a teenage girl approached me and proudly said: ‘The other day I was about to get mad with a girl from here [the shelter], but then I remembered what you said about trying to express my feelings in a more peaceful way.’

The previous day, this girl had attended one of our Girl Up workshops, Negotiation and Non-Violent Communication. This workshop was created as a direct result of my attendance at the Positive Peace Activator Program. I felt all our effort was worth it.

My career goal is very clear – following my experiences of working with Positive Peace, I want to become an intellectual authority on issues of peace and gender, and to be a consultant on the design and evaluation of public policies. As a member of Rotaract, and being just 21 years old, I’m striving to do my part in bringing about sustainable and lasting social change.

There are thousands of members of Rotaract like me who want to see the issue of girl empowerment brought front and center. As a member of Rotaract, and as a future member of Rotary, I want to give back to Rotary the knowledge, the energy, and the experiences that I have gained working on the issue of girl empowerment and Positive Peace.

This article, written Sofía Brega, Rotary Positive Peace Activator and member of the Rotaract Club of Juárez Centro, Chihuahua, Mexico, first appeared on Rotary Voices