Women Who Inspire Change: Brígida Concepción Ortega Fleitas

María José Rivas, Board of Directors

My grandmother, Brígida Concepción Ortega Fleitas, was known to me as Lela. Her 11 children—8 girls and 3 boys—were all born in her home in Arroyos y Esteros, Paraguay. Her first child, María Herminia, who we called Aunt Herminia, passed away when she was just 20 years old. At the time of Minina's death, my grandmother was pregnant with her youngest daughter, Mary, who carried the legacy of her eldest sibling by being given the name María Herminia as well.

Education was the most important thing for my grandmother Lela, even though she faced reproach from many neighbors and relatives. She sent all of her children, including the girls, to the General Caballero school. It was customary at that time for girls to assist with the duties at home and on the farm, but Lela never caved to the pressures of the criticism. She wanted her daughters to get an education, and encouraged them to go to college. Some went to college in Arroyos, and others, like my mom, chose a school in Asuncion, Paraguay's capital city.

I could say many things about my grandmother, but what I always emphasize is how she defied the norms of her time, changing the lives of all women who came after. Her daughters became teachers, artists, psychologists, businesswomen, and agriculture workers, in addition to excellent mothers and proud grandmothers. Her granddaughters have become accountants, economists, lawyers, dentists, engineers, architects, and writers. Lela, the rebel, forged a better future not only for her family, but for all women in Paraguay and the world.


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