Meet the Fellow: Lisette Arévalo

At 12 years old,  Lisette knew she wanted to become a journalist.

She started by writing for her high school newspaper, and as an extra credit assignment, she interviewed Colombian refugees and the NGOs that worked with them. “I didn’t know how to write then, it was basically a transcript of my interviews.”

She grew up in Quito Ecuador, where she reports on women’s issues in Latin America. After reporting one particularly emotional story about a grieving mother’s quest to find her kidnapped daughter, Lisette dreamed that the missing young woman told her not to stop looking for her. This story affected her so much that she went through a period of intense self examination. She knew it was important to tell women’s stories, which were largely under reported or misrepresented, but felt pressure to overprotect her objectivity especially in Ecuador where reporting women’s issues is heavily scrutinized.

Though the grieving mother never did find her daughter, she did manage to bring the kidnappers to justice. From then on, Lisette felt empowered to tell more stories on women’s issues even if it meant pushing back against a pervasive anti-women sentiment and accusations of “feminist propaganda”.

She went on to master’s program at the journalism school at Columbia University where she was introduced to audio journalism. She became an intern at Radio Ambulante, a Spanish language radio program and podcast on National Public Radio (NPR) and was promptly hired on as a producer.

While at Radio Ambulante, she produced a story “Nos Otras Decidimos” about Las Comadres, an organization that helps vulnerable women get abortions. After that story ran, she was delighted to hear that a foreign student studying in a rural area of Ecuador had listened to her story and had written up a short article in a local community paper. As a result, some local women read about her story and were able to connect to Las Comadres, allowing the organization to expand into less accessible rural areas which was their next big objective.

Lisette’s reporting focuses on gender violence and discrimination, and she is intentional about not re-victimizing her sources or romanticizing the violence they endure. Sometimes she struggles with not being able to directly help the women and children she interviews, especially when she sees first hand how badly they have been abused. She hopes her reporting will help give much needed nuance to the conversation on women’s issues in Latin America.


Jazmín Aguilera