A Woman’s Place in Peacebuilding

By Magdalena Castillo

I was elected to be the president of the first all-female officer team in my high school’s history during my senior year. It was not only a huge honor, but an amazing opportunity that I did not take lightly. Even at the high school level, there were so many things I wanted to accomplish and so many groups I wanted to reach. I didn’t think it would be a difficult task in terms of getting done what our officer team, by popular demand, wanted to get done. We had all been in Student Government holding several roles (mine being representative one year and treasurer the next, along with other micro roles) and the people trusted us…didn’t they? 

Wrong.

Some people did. Some people were thrilled to see we were listening to the high school’s concerns and addressing them promptly. Many people were impressed with our ideas and dedication. But others were skeptical. I thought the others that would be skeptical would be the general student population only, but the people with the loudest opposition of our “administration”, if you will, were the male members of our very own student government class. 

They made it impossible for us to get things done. They would argue at ideas that we brought up but weren’t ours, ideas that they very well knew the student population had suggested. They would call me things like “sassy” and “aggressive” when I would politely ask them to focus during class instead of goofing off. The same boys I loved and had worked with smoothly in the past, male-dominated officer teams were pulling me and us down. 

When we chose to follow through with things despite their reprimand, we risked having fractured relationships afterwards but when we decided to do things the way they were always done, we risked not doing our duty as the very students who put on every program, who raised all the money, and whose job it is to represent the school. I was frustrated because I thought that just having a female officer team was enough. But as Sheherazade said, women are not additive, they are integral, and that year, we were just an additive. 

We had not changed the macho culture of Student Government that was present at our school. It didn’t matter how many women were added to the officer team, we were still unable to move exactly how we wanted to move because of it. While that year I learned valuable lessons and we did make great impacts that year, I still struggle to this day with authority roles like that considering it can be applied to this field that I am interested in. As we saw through Sheherazade’s activity, as a woman in this field, I won’t be able to work the same way men work, but I learned there can be some benefits to that too.