Through ‘Zooming in on Your Voice’ we seek to empower and amplify the voices of youth of African descent in Uruguay

27 August 2020
© UNFPA Uruguay
The official launch of the project was on August 27 on the Month of the Youth celebration in Uruguay.

Montevideo, Uruguay – “UNFPA is strongly committed to youth of African descent. Through our country offices we are strengthening processes to fulfil the rights of populations of African descent, including young people, women, girls and adolescents”, said Harold Robinson Davis, UNFPA Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, during the launch of the project ‘Zooming in on Your Voice: Youth of African Descent in Uruguay’. The project is a space for youth to participate in the strengthening of afro identity and citizenship and thereby generate visions of change, build spaces of identity and self-recognition, and discover tools to examine, understand and identify everyday situations and experiences that limit their development as well as those that promote resistance and opportunities for change.

Zooming in on Your Voice

‘Zooming in on Your Voice: Youth of African Descent in Uruguay’ is a project led by ColectivaMujeres, together with UNFPA in Uruguay and the UNFPA Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean and in partnership with MediaRed, the Afrodescendant Institute for Study, Research and Development and the Training Centre for Regional Integration (CEFIR).

The initiative also includes an awareness-raising campaign on social media, designed with the input of young people. It will take as a starting point the experiences, words, ideas, emotions and images that arise from the online encounters.

After the virtual meetings, an in-person event is planned to link this process with the regional ones. The perspectives and proposals developed during the ‘Zooming in on Your Voice’ project will be presented in the space for exchange with civil society at the Tenth Meeting of Ministers and High-level Authorities on the Rights of People of African Descent in MERCOSUR (the Southern Common Market), which will take place in November 2020 in the city of Montevideo.

The project launch

The project was officially launched on 27 August, during Uruguay’s Youth Month. It was the first of a series of meetings, the strategic objective of which is “to empower and amplify the voices of youth of African descent in order to work with them and in their interests so they may exercise their rights and make full use of their potential as agents of change and agents of development” as Robinson Davis said.

During the meeting, the young Martín Rora welcomed the initiative and reflected on the different realities of the various groups of Uruguayan youth: “Today we are celebrating the National Day of Rural Youth and it seems to me that when we think about tools for young people of African descent we have to look at the rural areas of our country where many young Afro-Uruguayans live (...) I think this project is interesting particularly because when you emphasize youth participation, you cannot lose sight of the fact that there is no single model for youth, especially when thinking about plans and projects of this type, so I think institutions should take that into account. We have to move to a plural model of youth, talk about multiple groups of youths, because although we share the generational aspect, there are a lot of things that differentiate us: where we live, gender, our ethnic and racial identity.”

Senator Gloria Rodríguez was emphatic about the challenge facing Uruguayan society as a whole: “The rights are there. No one is unprotected, but some rights are being violated. We have to work on these issues, not for young people but with young people.”

The representative of the UNFPA Uruguay office, Fernando Filgueira, spoke of the need for this proposal to “multiply and be a space for exchange among the many groups of young people. A platform that serves to strengthen the existing movements of young people of African descent in the territory of Montevideo as well as the country’s interior. Let them be part of it, let them raise their voices to challenge us, to challenge the government, multilateral organizations and authorities. We are here and this is our voice, these are our proposals, these are our contributions.”

The following people also participated in the activity: Yandira Álvarez and Ana Dos Santos, for the ‘Zooming in on Your Voice’ project and members of ColectivaMujeres; Rosa Méndez, Director of the Human Rights Division of the Ministry of Social Development; Amanda Díaz, Head of the Department of Afrodescendants of the Ministry of Social Development; Federico Delgado, Head of Decentralization and Territory at the National Youth Institute; and Shari Garcia, Executive Coordinator of the Afrodescendant Institute for Study, Research and Development.

Zooming in on the experience and voice of youth

Between the launch and November, five workshops were held with the participation of 20 young people from the departments of Artigas, Rivera, Canelones and Montevideo, where a large part of Uruguay’s population of African descent lives. They exchanged experiences, opinions, information and proposals on topics such as daily life and afro identity, gender, rights of young people and people of African descent, and sexual and reproductive rights. Find out more about this space in this video:

The population of African descent in Uruguay

In Uruguay, people of African descent account for 8.5 per cent of the total population and are the largest racial and ethnic minority in the country, though they are furthest behind in terms of social, economic and educational inclusion.

Five out of ten persons of African descent completing primary education and two completing secondary school. Among young people of African descent, the rate of secondary school dropout is 18 per cent higher than the rest of the population of the same age. According to the last census (2011), only one out of ten young people of African descent of university age is studying for a degree.

In 2013, the Uruguayan parliament passed Act No. 19.122, which aims to “promote racial equality and equal opportunities and to tackle, mitigate and help eradicate all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all related forms of intolerance”. Article 1 of the Act states: “It is recognized that the people of African descent who inhabit the national territory have historically been victims of racism, discrimination and stigmatization since the era of slave trading and trafficking, actions that today are recognized as crimes against humanity according to international law.”

Currently, there is a multisectoral team working on the implementation of specific actions related to areas such as education, composed of delegates from the Ministries of Education and Culture, Labour and Social Security and Social Development, who together with representatives of civil society, including the Afro-Uruguayan Culture House, form an advisory council on the Act.

The Uruguayan State promotes and integrates the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda at the national, departmental and local levels. The SDGs are the master plan for a sustainable future for all.

Learn more here about ‘Zooming in on Your Voice’.

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