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Colombia: The most vulnerable in Latin America deserve equal opportunities

By Rocio Arango Giraldo

COLOMBIA: Ofelia is the name of my wheelchair. It stands in stark contrast with the worn-out wheelchairs of the salespeople’s wheelchairs that enter the building where my new job is located.
These are the people who sell the lottery tickets. They are the vulnerable of the most vulnerable. At another time, in this same space, I’ve talked about the “exclusion club” where in Latin America the majority who belong to this club are the most vulnerable — women, children, old people and handicapped persons.
In the mornings, while I begin my work as a professional, the lottery sellers start their day. They spend the whole day in the hot sun selling lottery tickets. Many of them are elderly.
However, I am 21-years-old and I pass my day in front of the computer, talking on the phone inside an air conditioned building as part of my new job being responsible for Foreign Affairs.
My case is a statistical anomaly — I have a genetic disorder of which the probabilities of being born with it are expressed in the millions. I am part of the 1 percent of handicapped people who are able to finish their higher education in Colombia and I still belong to 0.1 percentile who go on to study at a university or for a graduate degree.
But what is the reason for this situation?

The social policy for the welfare of handicapped people isn’t designed for the very people who are at the center of the intended policy and, in turn, does not encourage handicapped people to pursue jobs that require higher skills or education.
For example, very few of the universities accommodate handicapped people with special accesses. I studied at the National University of Colombia and the director scheduled one of my classes on the highest floor of one of the buildings — buildings that have no elevators.
While at the university, I campaigned to get elevators, special bathrooms for handicapped people and handicap parking. When I graduated last year, these accomplishments made my graduation the best event.
So, how does a country work for the development and eradication of poverty if it doesn’t generate ways to educate its most vulnerable people?
As a Political Scientist, I’m pretty sure that a program developed promoting efficiency and high expectations that allow these vulnerable people to believe in themselves would be a better way to generate educational space for them and access to quality jobs.
Jobs that pay enough so that they are no longer a burden on society or have to suffer from their dignity being insulted.
Learn more about Rocío:
Rocío Arango Giraldo is 21-years-old and lives in Medellín Colombia. She studied Political Science at the University of Colombia, as well as, Social Communication, Public Management, and Strategy and Public Knowledge at the Mexico City campus of the Technology Institute of Monterrey.
Rocío is a member of the Conservative
I am member of the Colombian Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Colombiano) where she works in political marketing, social and policy investigation and foreign affairs.
She also works as a young democratic participant with the Democratic Christian Organization of America and has written for such prestigious Colombian publications as El Colombiano, El Tiempo and others.
But something she is most proud of is her advocacy for people with disabilities.

I fight for the rights of disabled persons like me.


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  • Angelique
    May 15, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    You are a smart girl!!
    I think too hat the social policy in Latinamerican is a propose for the poverty. No More!!

  • Alvaro Gonzalez
    May 16, 2008 at 6:01 am


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