Castillo Barahona challenges women to ‘unite, not compete’ 

Pamela Castillo Barahona receives a standing ovation after her GOLD Speaker Series presentation. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

A Costa Rican activist for gender equity and the environment challenged Brenau students, faculty and staff to join together to seek a better, more inclusive world.

“We, women, need to be united and not compete,” Pamela Castillo Barahona said during The Women’s College GOLD Speaker Series on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and was met with applause. 

She urged the audience to be mindful of pursuing diversity and inclusion at all times.

“We need to ensure that through our actions, we continue to open opportunities for more women to become leaders,” Castillo Barahona said. “We need to create more spaces to come together and organize ourselves as groups to support and mentor each other, based on our collective experience, and build new solutions for the world we want and we need.” 

Rosi Ponce, Pamela Castillo Barahona, and Debra Dobkins during the Q&A session.
Rosi Ponce, Pamela Castillo Barahona, and Debra Dobkins during the Q&A session. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

During her speech and a question and answer session with the audience, Castillo Barahona described feelings of insecurity as she persevered in politics as her biggest obstacle. She shared the steps she took to develop resilience before encouraging her audience to band together and build support for one another. 

While the presentation focused on female leaders, Castillo Barahona urged men to join in the effort for gender equity by promoting positive masculinity and standing up for women’s rights.

Castillo Barahona is an expert in the fight for gender equity, having worked within the Costa Rican government to link gender equity and environmental agendas, as well as focusing on women’s economic empowerment. She is head of the technical secretariat of the Gender Parity Initiative of Costa Rica, which aims to reduce economic gender gaps. While serving as vice minister of environment from 2018-20, she established the first ministerial directive for closing the gender gaps in the forest, water and biodiversity sectors in the country. 

She also created the +Women +Nature Program, a public/private initiative that mobilizes resources for rural women to support their sustainable business endeavors. She designed the ecosystem restoration campaign Footprint for the Future, which is led by women associations in northern Costa Rica. She has served in several other international environmental roles.

The event was a partnership between The Women’s College and the Miller Institute for Global Education. Rosi Ponce, who is the executive director of the institute, called Castillo Barahona an empowering female leader.

“Castillo Barahona sets a positive example for our students,” Ponce said. “She has dedicated her life to gender equality and environmental responsibility, and reached thousands through her initiatives. I am thrilled that she is able to share her wisdom with the Brenau community.”

The Miller Institute was established in 2022 thanks to an endowment gift by longtime Brenau Trustee Pete Miller and his wife, Cathy, to support and encourage the global education of Brenau students and provide international learning opportunities in the Brenau community. The Millers have been supporting global education at Brenau since 2006. 

The GOLD Speaker Series features highly accomplished and trailblazing women and is an ongoing component of The Women’s College’s GOLD Program, which is in its “D Year” to focus on diversity and global perspectives.

More information about the GOLD Speaker Series can be found here.