Sandra Jiménez Loza
“We cannot be spectators of the events. We cannot wait for other people to do what we should do ourselves.”
There is an enormous restlessness in Sandra Jiménez Loza, this young Mexican girl. She asks and answers. She questions and investigates. She has been in a big hurry since she was born. She is also very lucky. She survived a premature birth with lack of oxygen.
“My family has always integrated me into all activities. They accept me as I am, without any obstacles. You transmit that to other people. If you accept yourself, and your family accepts you as well, other people will see you in that way. But discrimination exists and it is terrible that disability is growing and is becoming a taboo. Sometimes people do not know how to treat me. They do not know that, after all, I am just a person like anyone else, who needs a little extra help to do some things. All of us need a little help and support”. Sandra uses a wheel chair.
Precocious as she is, she started early with her activities supporting other people. “I entered a workshop on child journalism when I was 8 years old. My mother says that, since I learned to talk, I have never stopped! One year later, in 1997, Unicef representatives came to the workshop looking for girls and boys who could help them promoting the first consultations with children about their rights. They chose several of us, and I was one of them. They wanted us to spread the word about the Rights of Children. They trained us to appear on the mass media. After the first press conference, I realized that the preparation they gave us was insufficient and we weren’t able to answer the journalist’s questions. I began to read more and to understand more about the Rights of the Children”.
She participated in the Children’s Elections of 1997, in the Children and Youth Consultation of 2000 and 2003, and also in the consultations for the Plan of Action for Children, and in the Dialogue between Generations for Unicef’s Annual Report on the Conditions of the World’s Children, 2002.
In those moments, she realized that she was a privileged person. “I saw my life in another way because, in spite of my limitations, in spite of my disability, I have everything. I have affection, a healthy environment, education and health. In spite of my difficulties, I have everything I need to have a good life. Many children in the world, in my country, do not have that. I need to fight so that all the people in the world can have the same opportunities and the same quality of life. That is what drives me to do what I am doing. A noble life is a life where you do not lack necessary things like education, a good place for living, a place where you can live in harmony with people who love you and who love each other. A person should not miss food, health and all these things that are so important.”
Sandra adores ‘Momo’, the character in books written by Michael Ende (European writer, author of Momo and the Endless Story), who, together with the turtle ‘Casiopea’, fights against ‘the grey men’. They succeed in bringing back the time of human creativity which the ‘grey men’ had stolen.
She aspires to write and direct inspirational films on the themes of hope, creativity, and the value of life.“ To counteract the negative images that exist at the moment, I want to be a film director, sending positive messages out on the big screen. Even if people say no, I consider that messages sent this way, have a big impact. It is another approach to cinema. We are used to a cinema full of stereotypes. Movie stars are always pretty and thin like sticks, white-skinned and blonde. This image of women can only contribute to anorexia and bulimia. I think that we should talk about our problems, but in a positive manner. We have to emphasize human values and the value of life." And she adds: “We also have to show, in a non-sensationalist way, the consequences that people’s problems and disabilities may bring. If we act like this, we will see the world differently.
Like the writer Virginia Woolf proposed one day in her book, The Three Guineas, Sandra finds it necessary to tackle the way war is portrayed. “They show such caricatures on television, very pretty and tender protagonists that, in the end, always lose an arm or one eye, or else they decapitate each other. You can see things like that every day. Children get used to it and that is not good. For a few months, I went with my Mexican friends to the movies. As always, we chose the film through a vote and the film that won was called ‘El Castigador’ (The Punisher). Two whole hours of disproportionate violence, blood everywhere, and explosions. Two complete hours. I swear that I left the movie theatre, not only with low moral, but also wanting to go to the ticket office telling them: ‘you, grey men, give me back two hours of my time and my money’.”
Sandra’s record of achievement is enormous, but not complete, she warns us. For example, she was appointed Unicef Ambassador by the Good Will Ambassador, Roger Moore. In Geneva, she participated in the celebrations for the10th Anniversary of the Convention of Human Rights for Children (1999). She was also present at the Special Session for Children and at UN’s Children’s Forum, both in New York (2002).
You must leave a space in this record of achievements for the Nobel Prize, I said to her. “I have always known that they should give it to me," she jokes, but adds very earnestly: "I think Peace means to understand that we are all different, but that those differences do not affect us. On the contrary, they enrich us. One person may have ideas, beliefs, religion, citizenship different from my own, but we can complement each other. This person may have something I lack and that might help me. Peace is to understand that the differences make us unique and unrepeatable. We must turn humanity back into human beings. All those differences, instead of creating conflicts, will make us richer as human beings. It is a matter of opening our eyes, of understanding that, in spite of all our characteristics, we are human beings. We all have feelings, ideas, and rights. We have to respect each other. All of us deserve dignity”.
And she finishes, with a gesture characteristic of a woman who dedicates her time to thinking. “I do not believe in this big lie: that we, the children and the young people are the future. No, we are the present. Now is when we can begin to change our reality. The more we wait, the more damage will be done in the world and it will be more difficult to change”.
Sandra goes to bed late. She is wakeful but she dreams a lot. “My personal dreams are that all of us shall enrich each other. I dream that equal opportunities will exist for all of us, that there will not be a corner in the world where injustice is committed. I think that a great part of all this has to do with communication”.So and Sandra travels around the country and abroad, organizing press conferences, giving interviews and doing everything she possibly can in the mass media.
Does she never feel tired? “No. In some ways, I draw energy from people’s love. Even if I say crazy things, they believe me. I get energy from all those children with whom I share experiences, who show me affection without even knowing who I am. I get it from the knowledge that what I’m doing is multiplying, it will leave seeds that others can sow”.
It is getting dark at Sandra’s place and an orange light is reflected on a flowerpot full of geraniums, or ‘malvones’, as they are called in Mexico. “You know, I think that life is worth living. I have never doubted this. I think that everyone, as humans that we are, has their difficult days when they feel downhearted. But the important thing is to learn from such days, and to go forward. It is not worth making life complicated because of small worries. So foolish!”
I had a lump in my throat. When I came to her house, I was the sort of person that created crises over microscopic things! Sandra smiles, while her mother does her hair and brings a glass full of soda to her mouth. She has pimples, like teenagers do, between her dense eyebrows. “Do you have a boyfriend?” I ask, hoarsely. “I have not found one brave enough”, she says and roars with laughter. She has not found one lucky enough, I think to myself. I should say it aloud, but I feel shy. How foolish!
“My family has always integrated me into all activities. They accepted me as I am, without any obstacles. Sometimes people do not know how to treat me. They do not know that, after all, I am just a person like anyone else, who needs a little more help to do some things. All of us need a little help and people to support us.”
There is an enormous restlessness in this young girl. She is in a big hurry to do everything and is lucky, having survived a premature birth, due to lack of oxygen. As a result of those circumstances, Sandra Jiménez Loza has cerebral palsy, a paralysis that does not allow her to move her 18-year-old body in an independent manner. She has had medical treatment and physiotherapy since she was four months old. She uses a wheel chair. “I came into this world to change it,” she assures us. “Ambitious? Of course!” she says laughing. “Since I was a little child, I liked to ask about things and that is the reason why I need to investigate and read, to talk and write about the things I know. I need to say, for example, that, in 2003, a single country spent more on arms than the entire Latin American foreign debt.”
Sandra Jiménez Loza created the First Parliament for the Children and Youth of Mexico City, as a place to begin practicing democracy at an early age. She has participated in debates on the rights of disabled people and in the Women's and Children's Commission of the Legislative Assembly, to help pass the Law for the Protection of the Rights of Girls, Boys and Young People. She is the spokesperson on the rights of children in the Human Rights Commission of Unicef. “I want to be the General Secretary of the United Nations,” she says emphatically. Sandra's ambition has no limits.
The situation of girls and boys in Mexico is deteriorating. The official figures show that child labor and sexual exploitation are growing. In the last few years, there have been national and international initiatives to include these children into programs that will change their lives.
Latin America and the Carribeans | Mexico