Four young women tell us about leaving the country’s growing economic and humanitarian emergency.
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19 September 2019 | Volume 2, Issue 6
  A note from our editor:
Four million people have left Venezuela in the past five years because of the country’s growing economic and humanitarian crisis.

It can be hard to grasp the scope of a statistic like that, so we’re breaking the situation in Venezuela down to a personal level. In today’s Assembly, four young women tell us about what it was like to flee their country. They share how it became too dangerous to walk to school, which items they brought with them and what they wish the rest of the world knew about the crisis.

Also in this issue, 11-year-old Assembly reader Anya Sen picks her favourite recent articles and describes why you should read them too. Tanzanian student Melanie Msoka writes about addressing stigmas around family planning and puberty. And book blogger Darkowaa explains how you can participate in her #ReadGhanaian challenge.

Seven-day bus rides, suitcases filled with candy and goodbyes to friends: Young women share what it’s like to flee the crisis in Venezuela
Venezuela crisis
By María Rendo
Este artículo también está disponible en español.
Este artigo também está disponível em português.

In 2017, 18-year-old Katiuska had expected to begin her degree at the Universidad de Carabobo in Venezuela. Instead, she found herself packing all her possessions in a suitcase and fleeing her home.

Just like Katiuska, four million people have left Venezuela in the past five years because of the growing economic and humanitarian crisis. After the collapse of the economy in 2014, the country’s currency plummeted and became virtually worthless. This hyperinflation has caused high rates of unemployment, violent crime and hunger.

Nine out of 10 households in Venezuela don’t have enough money to buy food. People have turned to stealing to support their families, others resort to kidnapping to buy supplies with the ransom they extort. Recent Gallup surveys named Venezuela the most dangerous country in the world.

Four young women who have fled Venezuela for other parts of Latin America spoke about deciding to leave behind their homes, the challenges of rebuilding their lives and what they wish the rest of the world knew about the crisis in Venezuela. Read their responses below.

Katiuska, age 20, now living in Lima, Peru
Why did you decide to leave Venezuela?

I decided to leave Venezuela because young people felt like we didn’t have another option. In my case, I wanted to work so I could pay for my education and that wasn’t possible. On top of that, the insecurity you live in doesn’t let you have the freedom to enjoy time with your loved ones in peace. On the streets, there’s only danger.

Tell us about your trip.
Emigrating is a complicated process because you realise that carrying your life in a suitcase is a bit impossible. It sounds easy, “Take the important things.” But when you think about how long you’ll be away from home, everything becomes important, from a book you received from a loved one to a letter that you’ve been saving for years. In my suitcase, I was able to bring photos of my family, lots of them, basic things and candy from Venezuela, which I knew I wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere.

Camila, age 14, now living in Cúcuta, Colombia
What was the most challenging part of moving to another country?

I think it was the different people. The different way they talk, the way they treat each other. There are things you do in Venezuela that are considered normal, but here, maybe they see it as weird or it’s not something you normally see.

I also think that people my age already have their friend groups set. They already have people they feel close to so that makes it difficult for outsiders to make friends. They received me very well. My first day at school, they were great.

What do you miss the most from home?
My friends. Because no matter how well I get along with the girls and boys here, I always have that feeling of wanting to be with my friends and family in Venezuela, of wanting to be in Venezuela. It’s an extremely beautiful place. You walk down the street and smile to anyone and they smile back. Here, people are more serious. If you smile at them they give you a strange look. But truly, Venezuela is a really beautiful country with very sweet people.
What we're reading
Reading list
Assembly readers share what articles they’ve enjoyed recently and why you should read them too.

Hi everyone! My name is Anya Sen. I’m 11 years old and I live in New York, U.S. I like listening to songs from the musical “Hamilton” and my hobbies include playing percussion instruments and chess. I hope to be a doctor when I grow up and plan to continue my work as a girls’ education activist. Check out what I’ve been reading:

“The Women (And Men) Who Fuelled India's Ambitious Moonshot, Chandrayaan 2” 
By Pallava Bagla, edited by Divyanshu Dutta Roy
22 July 2019, NDTV
Scientists Muthayya Vanitha and Ritu Karidhal led the launch of India’s space mission Chandrayaan 2, becoming the first women in the country to lead an interplanetary mission. The takeaway from this article is that anyone can become a successful leader, no matter their gender.

“College-Educated Women Are the Workplace Majority, but Still Don’t Get Their Share”
By Maya Salam
2 July 2019, The New York Times
Maya Salam discusses how there are now more college-educated women in the U.S. workforce than college-educated men, however, women still don’t get paid as much as men do. I like this article because it uses data and facts to show that there is still a lot of progress to be made — and how you can help!

“Hong Kong woman breaks glass ceiling by becoming first female chief engineer on seagoing vessels in city”
By Zoe Low
9 July 2019, South China Morning Post
This year, Joanna Kwok Wing-yan became the first female chief engineer on seagoing vessels in Hong Kong. This is significant because female engineers are still rare in Asia. I recommend this article to any girl thinking of pursuing a male-dominated career.
Student essay
Starting conversations on menstruation and family planning in Tanzania
Menstruation and family planning in Tanzania
  By Melanie Msoka
Before I went to high school, I learned about many subjects, like mathematics, English and literature, sciences, bookkeeping, commerce, Swahili and informational technology. But I was never taught about menstruation and family planning. I did not have a clear understanding on the different changes that happen during puberty for girls and boys. Though it was taught briefly in biology, the content was more academic than something that could be practically applied in daily life. I didn't really think it was important for me to know about these things at my age since I wasn't pregnant or expecting a child soon.

In Tanzania, after graduating from form four, the graduates have to wait for seven months at home for their results of their national examination before joining high school. During this time, teen pregnancy rates increase — and it forces about 8,000 girls to drop out of school every year. In 2018, there were 69,000 teen pregnancies reported in Tanzania, which shows that early pregnancy is one of the most burning issues for youth in the country.

If students learn about menstruation and family planning before they enter high school, we could help stop these high rates of teen pregnancy. But these topics are considered taboo in Tanzanian culture. This is because our elders are afraid it will encourage youth to be more sexually active if they talk about it.

Read more.
Book spotlight
Take the #ReadGhanaian challenge and discover Africa’s lesser-known authors
Ghanian authors
By Darkowaa
The African literature sphere — book blogs, #bookstagram and big media outlets that highlight books by African authors — is inundated with the excellent work of Nigerian, South African and Kenyan writers. But there is very little attention paid to the myriad of Ghanaian writers producing great work.

On my book blog, African Book Addict!, I read and review books by writers of African heritage — from the diaspora and the African continent. As a reader of Ghanaian descent, it’s important for me to celebrate the work of writers from my homeland. If we don’t celebrate our own, who will?

In an effort to read more books by Ghanaian writers, I set one of my 2018 Reading Intentions to read at least five books by writers of Ghanaian descent. But thanks to a great deal of dental schoolwork, I wasn’t very successful in achieving that goal. So earlier this year, I decided to create the #ReadGhanaian book challenge as a way to involve others in reading more work by Ghanaian writers.

The #ReadGhanaian book challenge is very simple: Read at least five books by writers of Ghanaian descent throughout the year and post about them on social media using the hashtag.
Get published in Assembly!
  Assembly publishes original work by girls, for girls. And we would love to include your voice! Send us your ideas and you could be featured in the next issue.
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