Many low- and middle-income nations face a problem of having millions of people whose talent is undeveloped and whose potential is wasted. Peru is one example. One in five young people (15 – 24 years) neither work nor are going to school, and a majority of these youth are women. Those women who do find work are in low-skill areas. One-third of the women in Peru do not have any income. Nearly 15% of teenage girls are mothers. Very few young Peruvians have the resources to go to college.
Mariana Costa Checa, a young Peruvian, decided to do something about the lack of opportunities for women in her native country. She had a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and worked with the Organization of American States. After getting a Master’s Degree from Columbia, she and her husband returned to Peru and created a digital company offering website and software development support.
One of the challenges that Mariana and her husband faced was the lack of software development talent. The talent they found was mostly male and self-taught. Mariana decided to create an organization called Laboratoria to help young women develop the technical skills to support the digital economy of Peru.
Laboratoria graduates around 500 young women each year. The job placement rate is 80-85%. Most of the graduates never had a prior employment in any organization. Their pay is often double the income of their entire family.
Mariana set a goal of having 10 training centers around the country. Google provided a grant to Laboratoria so that the curriculum that they developed can be shared across Central and South America. What Mariana started as an entrepreneurial attempt to make progress for the women of Peru is now spreading across the continent.
Mariana is not alone as a pioneer in human empowerment. There are pioneers in other developing parts of the world. In developed nations, there are pioneers who work with immigrants or citizens who have fewer resources.
Just imagine how many people in the world are working below the level of their basic talent. What would it take to scale up the effort to empower people to develop their talents and work to their potential? Just imagine the spark that it takes to ignite this movement. Now what might we do to keep it moving? What can we do individually and collectively to help others to fulfill their talent?
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“Technology is consumed equally by men and women, but if we only have men building that technology, it won’t be able to respond to the needs of women in the same way. This will result in women living in a world we didn’t design “— Mariana Costa Checa
This is part of our “Just Imagine” series of occasional posts, inviting you to join us in imagining positive possibilities for a citizen-centered democracy.