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a girl in a man's world

I have been living in a container camp at a petroleum well for the past 3 weeks. Two things I can say: it’s a boring place, and you have to be a girl for anyone to notice you. Of course you would, in a place where there’s only 15 women for every 100 men. This is a very feminine camp, I was told, because normally the statistic is 2 or 3 women for every 100 men...

The big bad oil company here is paying for us to set up working groups at schools to work for the environment, ecoclubs they are called. When we first came here, my male co-worker and I, we got kicked out for not having the proper insurance. No exceptions, they said. The boss of the office in charge of us, Jorge, said he was sorry to leave poor little me without his powerful protection, but insisted there was little he could do. To my partner he said, “I don’t really care what happens to you, it’s the lady I’m worried about.”

They kept calling afterwards to see how we were and how the work was going. One day they came to visit us, we invited them over for lunch and gave them a tour of the place. In the end they ended up inviting us back to the camp, which was a significant financial relief for our project and for us, since we would have had to travel for 3 hours a day otherwise.

Why did they have us back, if we still had the wrong insurance, I wondered. My partner, however, got it right away: the two guys in charge of us had been at the camp for over two weeks, away from family and friends, and women. I happened to meet them in my cute bikini when they came into town, and they immediately noticed me like they hadn’t before. And it turned out to be true, too. We had to go meet the supervisor, so the engineer turns to me and says: “it’s all smiles from now on, Juana. Use your charms so he‘ll let you stay”. Nothing had changed from when they kicked us out the first time and now, my charms were the same. Why were we not given this chance to make our point before? All of a sudden I understood why I always had to go arrange for a car to take and pick us up, why I got further asking for snacks and getting people here to help me with anything, in the end. I noticed finally people here were all men!!

I don't know how this would feel if I had to work here permanently, if I was one of those 15. It must be really hard for everyone, working 16 hours a day and sleeping away from your family half a month at a time. But while the men's attitude might help them get through their day to day, it makes things here uncomfortable for the few women, who are constantly being watched, rated and graded like cattle. Even though I had some sort of magic power over most of them (I must admit I used it often, and liked it!!), I still felt like I was at an everlasting fashion show. Only they didn't mind the fashion, just imagined what was underneath it.

My work mates get anoyed because I insist on calling humans humans instead of men, and am constantly correcting them. But I think that's just going one step closer to ending sexism!

Latin America and the Caribbean
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