Laura Ramos Tomás (she/her), is a white, cisgendered, heterosexual woman who was born into a Spanish family living in Germany. She is the third-born of two chemists turned Spanish teacher and corporate R&D manager. Laura and her two older brothers grew up as third culture kids, attending an international school with students from all over the world. In Germany they were referred to as the Spaniards, and in Spain they were the Germans, never quite belonging, but always safe. She was aware only in theory of her privileges, and comfortably distant from the far less comfortable realities many people live in.
Upon graduating school, she moved to the UK to study Product Design at Bournemouth University, eventually relocating to London to work at L'Oréal. In the 5 years that she worked in the beauty industry, she grew increasingly uneasy that she wasn’t involved in helping solve some of the world’s bigger problems. Hence, at 24, she left her corporate job and Europe, drawn to Latin America due to its historical connection with Spain and because of its cultural breadth and richness.
It was the specific work of Honduras Child Alliance, a grassroots NGO promoting educational enrichment and healthy living in a socially vulnerable rural community, that led her to El Porvenir, Honduras. There, she spent six months as a resident educator and mentor to 6- to 15-year-olds. In the process of getting to know the children and the community, she was exposed to the intersection of poverty, lack of access to quality education, gender-based violence, and sexual abuse.
Intent on further understanding the interplay between these dynamics, and now very aware of the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in some of the most vulnerable contexts, she moved to Guatemala City to join MuJER Guatemala, an NGO that provides support for sex workers and victims of abuse through education, empowerment workshops, legal advice and counseling. As an educator and community outreach officer at MuJER, she came to understand that sex can be weaponized when at least one person lacks an understanding of human rights – sexual health and rights amongst these.
Shortly after her time in Guatemala, she was invited to speak at a GirlUp student volunteer meeting at Frankfurt International School, where she had graduated 9 years prior. This was another pivotal moment in her journey because she very clearly saw that the taboos around sexuality transcend social class and geography. She also perceived how deeply connected gender inequality is to human rights violations –from the roughest parts of Latin America to the most privileged of societies in Europe,– and their correlation with lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education.
Her fascination for Latin American cultures and her drive to tackle social causes at scale led her to Colombia to work at Fundación Capital, an international NGO working to improve the economic and financial lives of people living in social vulnerability around the world. She managed institutional communications, as well as taking the lead on project communications for the initiative driving empowerment of young rural women through financial inclusion in Colombia, México and Paraguay, as well as the gender transformative initiatives in poverty alleviation. These initiatives further confirmed Laura's direction of tackling inequalities through education.
In 2019, Laura moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, intent on leaving the desk job and returning to working directly with the communities. She joined Community in Action, an NGO that supports a network of local grassroots initiatives in Rio's favelas (shanty towns), offering social outreach programs as well as personal development opportunities for social entrepreneurs.
The two years Laura spent as Operations Manager in this grassroots organization were pivotal in honing her understanding of the realities of working in, for and with low-income communities, and how to truly collaborate and support locals’ initiatives.
In her five years (and counting) in Latin America, Laura has worked with youth, young mothers, survivors of trafficking and sex workers living in social vulnerability. She fell in love with community development work — specifically that of grassroots organizations empowering their communities through social outreach — and saw the potential of digital tools in educating people at scale.
In parallel to her work in development, Laura completed the University of Michigan's Sexual Health Certificate Program in Sexuality Education, and was awarded the Sallie Foley Scholarship for her commitment to working with underserved populations in the area of sexuality education.
These experiences led Laura to start TabuTabu, an organization working to co-create contextually-relevant sexuality education programs with and for underserved communities in Latin America that tackle their most pressing SRHR learning needs. TabuTabu’s programs center the learners’ self-identified choices and needs, and content development is supported by other educators and SRHR experts from a wide range of gender identities, sexual orientations, social backgrounds and nationalities. This ensures that Laura’s own intersecting identities don’t over-influence the educational content, so as to make the programs as unbiased, contextually relevant, and constructive as possible.
To ensure the sustainability of TabuTabu’s work in underserved communities, the organization is expanding online. TabuTabu will be launching educational programs and tools to dismantle the taboos around sexuality, sexual health, and pleasure, so that people of all walks of life can engage in healthy and respectful relationships with themselves and each other, and can contribute to more empathizing and thriving communities.