Written by Margie Del Castillo and cross-posted in partnership with the National Latina Institute of Reproductive Health as part of the 2012 Latina Week of Action.
This profile of Margie Del Castillo is one of several of powerful Latina women advocates throughout the United States.
My name is Margie Del Castillo and I will be a second year Master’s student this fall in the Women’s Studies program at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I have lived in and around Washington D.C. my entire life and mostly in the state of Virginia. I completed my undergraduate work at The College of William and Mary and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Women’s Studies in 2005. I always knew that I enjoyed working with people in my community so after graduating, I started a career in social work, primarily working with Spanish speaking immigrants of color. Through my work with a local county government, I helped my clients secure aid from public assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF. During this time, I spent lots of time with my clients, both in person and on the phone. I learned about the issues in the Latina/o community, and especially those affecting young women and mothers. By far, the most pervasive issues I heard about were lack of access to reproductive health care and issues relating to domestic violence.
This inspired me to work on the issue of domestic violence more closely. I spent time volunteering and working with a local social justice organization that worked with survivors of both domestic violence and sexual assault. My work primarily focused on teen violence prevention, but I also worked with survivors who resided in the shelter and in the nurturing program, which held parenting classes that focused on promoting the positive upbringing of children.
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With the teen violence prevention program, I worked with local youth during after-school hours. I would facilitate presentations and conversations with them and we focused on how to build healthy relationships. More specifically, we would discuss issues ranging from body image perceptions, cyber-bullying, teen dating violence and a host of other issues. I would present information to the kids and then encouraged them to speak their opinions freely. The back and forth dialogue and genuine honesty was an immensely rewarding thing to experience. I would like to continue working with young people and with more of a focus on reproductive health/justice, media literacy, and our own Latina/o culture.
Living so close to our nation’s capital makes it easy to get distracted from our local issues by the more attention grabbing national news. But after returning from NLIRH’s Southeastern Regional LOLA training, I feel more inspired than ever to focus my efforts on our local community. At the training, I met two other women that live in my same town and during our discussion; we came up with many different issues that Virginia faces. The most widely known policy issue was what is now known as the mandatory ultrasound bill. Governor Bob McDonnell signed this law into effect on March 7th, 2012. Before it became law, proponents wanted the bill to require every woman to have a mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound, before they could legally have an abortion. Under the law, the ultrasound is still required, although women can now opt for it to be an external one. Human trafficking is also another major issue in Virginia, as my state has yet to implement comprehensive, anti-trafficking legislation. Victims are often criminalized while perpetrators often receive light sentences. These are just a couple of many issues facing our Latina/o community in Virginia and I look forward to working with other NLIRH LOLA graduates in the fight for reproductive justice in VA.
In order to be successful in our fight for reproductive justice, we Latinas must recognize our poder. NLIRH’s “Soy Poderosa” campaign is trying to do just that. I feel poderosa because of my support system. My parents emigrated to the United States from Lima, Peru in 1979, to create better opportunities for themselves and their children. Without them making that huge sacrifice, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have been allowed the fabulous education that I now have or the opportunities that now await me in my present and future. That makes me feel poderosa.