Mujeres en Internet Interviews: Verónica Arroyo

We reached out to women in Internet governance to see how they work and live. The following is an interview with Veronica Arroyo, from Peru.

Verónica Arroyo is a young digital rights activist from Peru. She is Vice Chair of the Youth Observatory, an Internet Society Special Group of Interest and co-founder of Embajadores de Internet, an educational project. Her main fight is to increase awareness on data protection and to empower youths in Latin America. Currently, she is writing her thesis on big data and digital markets to graduate as a lawyer. As a hobby, she studies languages, to date she is fluent in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. @veroluiza

Who are some women you look up to within our field? Who has mentored you? (If you’ve received little or no mentorship, can you describe why mentorship is important?)

I can name two women that inspire me: Katitza Rodriguez, from EFF and Wafa Ben-Hassine, the policy council for MENA at Access Now. About mentorship, there are few women in Peru that work on internet governance; therefore, it is quite difficult to find a female mentor. Luckily, I ‘ve received some help and tips from a man. His name is Miguel Morachimo, he is the director of Hiperderecho, a local NGO. Since the moment I told him I was interested in technology and law, he started to send me information and invitations to learn more about the topic. I am very grateful for that.

I do believe that mentorship is very important not simply because the newbie needs an example to follow, but also because our field is new and it is in constant evolution, therefore you need some kind of guidance.

What are you currently doing in your field? What other organizations inspire your work?

Currently, I am the vice chair of the Youth Observatory, a Internet Society special group of interest. Our mission is to increase the participation of youth in internet governance activities. Then my work involves many things. Most of the time I send e-mails looking for new opportunities and coordinate activities within our group.

Even if the majority of our group is from Latin America, our group is diverse. I do like this aspect because you end up learning a lot. In that sense, I admire international organizations that embrace diversity as an asset to achieve its goals such as Access Now and Article 19. However, in the field of youth organizations making a global impact I feel inspired by AIESEC work.

What do you see as the greatest barriers for women in our field? How can we be better for women?

The greatest barrier is the lack of trust on what women can do. People sometimes believe we are not capable to do things men do. I personally experienced this, and I did not feel good.

We can change this situation. Let me repeat what I tweeted once: “Include women everywhere!!! Give us a voice and the power to decide things, you will not regret (…)” And please eliminate the idea that there is work for women and work for men, at least when we talk about technology and law.

Why do you do what you do? What has kept you motivated to continue this work?

My journey started in 2016, and in that year my main motivation was to learn. To date, I keep that motivation but I have one more. Through all this process I received a lot, I even found the topic for my thesis and the job I want to do in the future. Therefore, I believed it was time to give back. I found out since the very beginning that youth need to have a voice when we talk about Internet governance. When I looked back at my country I saw that few people and almost no youth were working on this topic. So, I decided to work on projects to increase youth participation, to promote digital literacy, and to do capacity building among youth. I have not achieved want I want yet, so I keep working.

What is something you’re most proud of in your work? (This could be a single event, happening, policy change that you helped influence, a impactful conversation or presentation)

I am very proud of what Embajadores de Internet accomplished in its first year, when I was the Director. Let me explain, on December 2016, a group of fellows from the Youth@IGF program created a project called “Embajadores de Internet”. We discovered that we basically navigate blindly on the Internet, just enjoying but not realizing the resourceful tool we have handy. Then, the project was created to encourage young people to be part of the decision-making process about the present and future of the internet. In our first year we conducted campaigns on digital privacy in phones, wrote an e-book to explain in simple words complex Internet governance topics and we streamed online meetings where we present and discuss internet related topics. Our work was presented to the 2017 Youth@IGF fellows to inspire them, and now they have their own project called “Digital Grassroots”.

Do you wish you knew more of something? Is there a subject you don’t know about but would like to learn? (This question is meant to inspire a network of women to potentially reach out to each other to enhance each other’s work.)      

I wish I could code. I plan to learn to code as soon as I finish my thesis. I believe it is the language we all need to know, because it is the core of everything we use in our daily life. If we want to understand our future I think we need to learn this new language.