A young woman’s story of revolutionising equality, one equation at a time!
“Dear Salvadorian girls, you can do anything, you really can do anything, it doesn’t matter if you’re the only girl in calculus (like me), or what your family, friends and teachers say, if you like science, you should go for it, you are doing this for you, the only thing that matters is your happiness. I really want to see more Salvadorian women and girls in Science, because, we are the change El-Salvador needs!”, says seventeen year old, Ana, when asked what message she’d like to give Salvadorian girls. Ana María Amaya, is a seventeen year old girl from Santa Ana, El-Salvador, and is deeply fascinated by biology and mathematics, when talking about love for biology, she cheerfully referred to it, as her “bae”.
When asked who was her first role model, she replied instantly without hesitation, her grandfather. Ana’s grandfather was one of the most influential people in her life. He was an ecologist, who devoted his time and effort to improve his country, El-Salvador. She would recall his love for biology being endless. He would constantly tell her, that she could do anything she wanted, and that was as smart as a boy. She was also told, that no body should ever shame her, or make her believe she was inferior, because of her gender. She was constantly surrounded by biology and calculus books, that belonged to her grandfather, this is where Ana’s science Journey began, at the age of 5. “I was totally amazed by it, and the fact that I could find answers to everything. It is important to support girls in STEM: we can change the world.”
After her grandfather passed away, she found herself without any support to pursue a STEM-related major, she wanted to join an organisation that helps empower young Salvadorian scientists, but her family wouldn’t allow her to do so. She decided to study by herself, and prove them wrong. Now, they acknowledge her potential and fully support her dreams. “ I think without the support of my grandfather, I wouldn’t want to pursue any STEM related interests, that’s why it’s important to show girls how important they are, and can be”, said Ana, with a gleeful smile.
Another prominent role model in Ana’s life, has been her mother, Ana expresses how her mother has always been supportive of her interests in science. “My mother will always offer to help me, regardless, of her expertise in the topic. She always asks me if I want to enrol in a class, or if I need some books, or if there is something she needs to pay for, even though we don’t have that much money” said Ana, while her eyes glimmered with love and respect for her mother.
In March 2017, Ana, was also honoured in El Grafíco, a Salvadorian news paper. Her dedication and commitment to achieve success, won her the ‘Golden Eagle’ medal, due to which she was honoured!
Ana, is currently part of The Junior Academy, of the New York Academy of Sciences, it is a highly selective platform for adolescents aged between 13-18 to collaborate on STEM related challenges that currently impact our planet, or even our solar system! “When I got in, my friends were so excited for me, they keep on asking me how my challenges are going and about my teammates. This just makes me so happy, to know that I have friends who are so supportive of my decision to pursue STEM.”. Ana is currently the first, and only Salvadorian girl on The Junior Academy! She reveals, how she convinced more Salvadorian girls to apply, and help attain their fullest potential. “Physics is not one of my best areas, but I still try to teach and help younger girls”.
“I love talking about my country!”, said Ana, with a a huge smile. El-Salvador, has one of the world’s highest murder rates, due to the presence of gangs. Ana expresses, how children as young as 8 and 9 years old join gangs to find psychological security, and also because they are coaxed into believing it’s the right thing! “If girls in these gangs, obtained proper education, then El-Salvador’s future would be beautiful!”. Girls in these gangs, are often kept away from the society, and are deprived of their education. There’s also a significant difference in the percentage of men and women pursuing STEM, the former being higher. Ana believes, the future of El-Salvador, lies in the hands of the Science, especially women and girls! “They will not listen to one woman, if thousand women speak up, they will realise it is a problem worth addressing.” says Ana, when asked about physical and sexual violence towards women. She elaborates how women are cat called and how they receive ‘kisses’ by men on the road, she says, “This is violence too, this affects a woman’s self-esteem and mental health!”. Ana believes it is crucial for Salvadorian women and girls to talk about the forms of violence they face! “We as girls, can all contribute to science, but if you leave out girls from developing countries, then you’re losing so much, science loses so much! You choose not to let humanity progress!”, Ana, comments and emphasises on the importance of the involvement of girls in science from developing countries.
At a certain point of her life, Ana expresses how her peers were not supportive of her pursuing science, and how they would constantly tried to demean her or prove her inferior. “I almost believed them, I was doubtful of my own power, I almost gave up”. Peer bullying can often make someone question their own worth, luckily, Ana was not one of them. She bounced back, and her pledge to being a Salvadorian woman in science, and contributing to the betterment of El-Salvador has never been stronger! Ana hopes to major in environmental engineering. She aims to study abroad, as she believes she can obtain different perspectives and skill sets; she, then wants to return to El-Salvador, to change the current flaws and better it as a nation.
“To girls in science across the globe, I am very proud of you. Besides meeting new people you will grow as a person, women have been discriminated all this time, you are righting the wrongs. We together, will change the world!”