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    Monday, March 16, 2020

    Empowering youth for peace, justice, and equality in Latin America

    By: Patricio Provencio - General Coordinator, Empoderando Juventudes

    Throughout Latin America, millions of people are victims of precarious living conditions and multiple social and environmental problems that have generated high levels of inequality and violence, which have particularly affected the region’s youth.

    In addition to the discrimination, oppression and injustices that they have suffered systematically, young Latin Americans have been excluded from public spaces and political decision-making processes and have lacked stimulating educational opportunities that provide them with knowledge and relevant tools to promote and enhance our development and our activism, opine and incide in public matters that concern them and contribute to the wellbeing of our communities.

    With profound indignation for such a difficult and challenging situation and at the same time inspired by the examples of the use of education as an instrument of change and of thousands of young people who have fought for a better present and future for all, a few years ago a group of young Latin Americans decided that youth should act and be a fundamental part of the transformation we wanted to see in our communities and that we should teach, support, promote and take advantage of our dynamism, our creativity, and our diversity in order to be protagonists in the construction of dignified lives and prosperous societies in our region

    Therefore, at the beginning of 2015, we created Empoderando Juventudes (Empowering Youth) with the immense desire to transform our region and the firm goal of ensuring that youth identify ourselves as agents of social change and that we have the means to assume a leading role in the construction of peace, equality, justice, democracy, and sustainability for Latin America and the world.

    Empoderando Juventudes is a youth-led organization that possesses nine local committees in eight different countries that carry out social and educational projects with the mission to promote and strengthen civic engagement, social activism and local, national and regional cooperation among Latin American youth as a means to contribute to the construction of peace, justice and equality. 

    To advance our mission, a central part of the Empoderando Juventudes ethos is the facilitation of unique educational experiences focused on horizontality, dialogue, solidarity, and cooperation.

    On the basis of a participatory methodology that allows them to engage with a variety of concepts and issues through the lenses of their different experiences, emotions, and points of view, young people learn, discuss, and reflect about public issues and develop a variety of attitudes, values, knowledge, and skills to prevent and tackle social and environmental problems in their communities through critical thinking; sensitivity; empathy; reflexivity; social justice; respect, promotion, and defense of human rights; creativity and art; and civic engagement and social and environmental activism.

    Moreover, we look to encourage youth a high level of awareness and sensitivity not only with regards to what happens in our communities but also to the plurality of youth perspectives in relation to public affairs so that we can find solutions to the different problems that affect us today. Consequently, we aim to strengthen young people’s personal development and sense of social responsibility; foment inclusive, peaceful, and participatory social and educational environments; increase youth’s civic engagement and activism; and advance initiatives and efforts that build peace, equality, and justice. 

    During our four-year history, Empoderando Juventudes has implemented youth empowerment courses, workshops, seminars, conferences, forums, roundtable discussions, artistic interventions and performances, and awareness campaigns and activities for more than 1,500 young people from 12 different countries across Latin America.

    Throughout the years, we have faced many difficulties with organizing and sustaining our activities, particularly as we depend mainly on volunteers, and we lack the economic resources that enable us to grow our organization and expand our work. Nonetheless, the members of the organization possess a deep commitment with our mission and with our potential to help build a peaceful, just, and equal Latin America with adequate and decent living conditions for all its inhabitants and in which youths are committed and actively involved with the construction of a better present and future for our communities and our environment.

    As a result of our commitment with the organization’s mission, in the near future we seek to consolidate, sustain, and grow our projects and committees; create new projects and committees; integrate to local, national, and international networks; and advance the financing and institutionalization of our committees across the region.

    As we explore ways to join and participate in different networks, we felt highly motivated to join the IYF because we consider that we share common goals and we feel excited to dialogue and cooperate with a diverse group of youth organizations from around the world in order to exchange knowledge, points of view and experiences; articulate links, agendas and collaborative efforts; collectively attend public issues that pertain and affect youths, inform public institutions and the general public about the needs and concerns of youths and the activities that youth activists and organizations carry out on a daily basis; and promote and strengthen youth empowerment and participation. 

    Ultimately, we know that greater participation of youths in the public life of their communities can transform our societies and our environment and we believe that together with the IYF and other youth organizations we can advance and advocate for the inclusion, engagement, and development of youths along the lines of the Sustainable Development Goals and contribute to the generation of a better present and future for everyone. 

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