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Welcome to our first-ever Alum Network alum feature! This week, we are featuring a conversation with accomplished alum, Leslie Collao. She tells us a little bit about herself, as well as the TechHER Revolution, which she just hosted in collaboration with Girl Up and her nonprofit, Kusisqa. 

What is your name?  

Leslie Collao.

Where are you located?  

Lima, Peru  

How old are you?  

21  

Are you currently working? In school? If so, what do you do, or what do you study? 

I’m studying Business Administration.

How are (or were) you involved in Girl Up?  

In 2019, at the age of 16, I looked for opportunities to promote gender equality in Peru, but most were for adults. I discovered Girl Up and founded the Kusisqa Girl Up Club, where young people like me could work together.  

In 2020, we represented Peru at the “Girl Up Global Leadership Summit,” where we had the opportunity to share the reality of SDG 5 in Peru, considering the challenges we faced due to COVID-19. By the end of 2020, Kusisqa became a youth organization.  

Later, in 2023, Girl Up Latin America invited us to the Regional Workshop in Mexico City. Now, we are working on the TechHER Revolution project in partnership with Girl Up and are very grateful for the opportunity to work together to promote the next generation of women in STEM.  

You are being featured for a specific achievement, event, or project! Tell us more about what you are doing.   

Today, Kusisqa is a non-profit association that promotes gender equality in education, health, politics, and the environment. Led by young people aged 15 to 29 from all over Peru, it has spearheaded projects with national entities such as Amnesty International and the Ministry of Women, as well as internationally with the United Nations Foundation and Women Win. We participated in the Bridge-Building workshop at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City last year, which allowed us to access funds to continue our mission.  

On March 8 of this year, we received recognition from CNN as advocates in Latin America.  

TechHER Revolution is a two-week bootcamp to empower girls aged 13 to 17 in STEM. It was financially supported by Girl Up and received backing from Universidad del Pacífico. Authorities such as the National Youth Secretariat of the Ministry of Education and the National Council for Science, Technology, and Innovation provided presentations. The Australian Embassy in Peru also joined in. In just two weeks, we impacted more than 200 girls from various regions of Peru.  

What inspired this idea, event, or project?  

Regarding what inspired Kusisqa, as I mentioned, I graduated from high school in 2019. During that year, I participated in Model United Nations, where I had my first contact with promoting gender equality. In these debates, representing countries with diverse challenges, I identified with the committees dealing with gender inequalities due to the complex reality we face in Peru. Kusisqa, in Quechua, means happiness, reflecting our mission to achieve gender equality for overall well-being.  

As for TechHER Revolution, the inspiration arose in a working meeting with the Kusisqa programs team. Kusisqa is divided into programs, events, and internal management areas. We discussed flagship projects, as Kusisqa was growing rapidly. We had “Poder ESI” to promote comprehensive sexual education and our “School of Politics” to empower female participation in the government sector.  

Additionally, we had an environmental project to train environmental leaders. For the education axis, we noticed that few Kusisqa members were studying STEM careers, indicating a lack of female participation in these areas. We decided to promote STEM among women, giving birth to TechHER Revolution. This bootcamp, recently concluded, aimed to foster the next generation of women in STEM, aged 13 to 17.  

What is one thing you would like to see in your future?  

One goal we have set as the Kusisqa team and I personally is undoubtedly for our organization to be established in Peru and expand to have branches in other countries worldwide so that the impact we generate doesn’t stay only in our country but our message spreads.  

Our team is led by young people and adolescents, so we plan to replicate this approach in various communities. We have already proven that youth can lead significant processes, and now it’s our turn to expand the impact.  

We have already proven that youth can lead significant processes, and now it’s our turn to expand the impact.  

What is one tip you have for younger Girl Up members?  

Don’t let adult centrism make you believe you can only be beneficiaries; you have everything you need to lead the change yourselves without losing sight of the sense of community.  

Don’t let anyone or anything make you doubt your potential. You are capable of achieving everything you set your mind to. Even though there are tense days and you may feel you didn’t do well, remember you are human. Just as there are adults who also make mistakes, it is normal for things not to go well always, but that doesn’t mean you can’t move forward.  

Finally, remember you are not alone. At first, it may seem like only we raise our voices on issues that matter to us, but the truth is, as you get involved in various spaces, you realize you are no longer the “different”, but simply you hadn’t yet found the right people to work with.  

Believe in yourself and your inner voice, silence the noise around you, and start feeling from deep within yourself.  

Passion and your desire to build a better world will take you to unimaginable places; allow yourself to live that and much more.  

Who is one person who inspires you?  

Definitely my mom. She is a retired police officer and dedicated 25 years of her life to promoting a culture of peace based on preventive and youth empowerment programs in collaboration with other agents such as the state. Since I can remember, she always took me to the training sessions she conducted or to her work whenever she could; this is how I understood the reality around me and learned strategies to work with the community.  

She taught me many of the skills and knowledge I possess because I am still studying at university, but that was key to driving Kusisqa to what it is today. In fact, she named “Kusisqa” and chose its colors because everything about our organization made her very happy.  

She believed in our potential as a team even when we hadn’t even started, and that positive and brilliant energy she has is still reflected in every project we lead.  

Anything else you would like to add?   

In closing, I would like to infinitely thank Girl Up for believing in us from the beginning, first as a Club and then as an organization. You provided us with the necessary tools to embark on this extraordinary adventure, and today we can proudly call you our allies.  

We are excited to see what the future holds, stay tuned.  

A big hug from Peru. 

To learn more about engaging as an alum with Girl Up, visit our website HERE.

This blog is the kickoff to an ongoing VOICES series in which we highlight the amazing work that our alum are doing around the world. Have a story worth sharing with the world? Email alum@girlup.org to be featured next! 

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