Young people of African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean will strengthen their capacities for leadership and human rights

21 October 2020

PANAMA CITY, Panama – The Ashanti Perú youth organization, with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, launched EscuelAfro, a leadership school for young people of African descent in Latin America and the Caribbean. The initiative seeks to strengthen leadership capacities and drive the participation of young people of African descent so that they can train, combine their efforts and strengthen their proposals in the region.

EscuelAfro was inaugurated during a virtual panel discussion with the participation of Epsy Campbell Barr, Vice-President of Costa Rica; Harold Robinson Davis, UNFPA Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean; Marco Antonio Ramírez, president of the Afro-Peruvian youth network, Ashanti Perú; Jembel Chifundo, Afrodescendant youth leader; Abel Aronátegui, consultant for youth of African descent at UNFPA Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean; and moderated by Yesenia Olaya Requene, pedagogical consultant at EscuelAfro.

A leadership school for young people of African descent

The initiative will benefit 80 young people aged 15–29 years, who will strengthen their skills and knowledge to promote human rights, especially sexual and reproductive rights, with a gender, intercultural, generational and disability focus. It seeks to involve them actively and effectively in decision-making at the national and regional levels and will provide them with tools to take a pivotal role in social, political and economic change.

“We must envisage transformative, cooperative leadership that allows our young people to be empowered, to fully enjoy a world in which they can live with ethical principles. The new leadership by women and men of African descent must start from a broad view of human rights that allows for the transformation of society and progress in terms of a personal and collective project,” said Epsy Campbell Barr, Vice-President of Costa Rica.

The Vice-President also called for leadership to promote peace and reconciliation among young people of African descent: “We need leaders who will transform multicultural and multi-ethnic democracies. We must become role models for their communities.”

Harold Robinson Davis, UNFPA Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, spoke of the importance of this initiative in the current context and declared that “it is time to invest in spaces that strengthen the organization of Afrodescendant youth groups so that they can participate and have a political impact, amplify their voices and guide actions that improve the sustainable development of this population of African descent at the local, national and regional levels”.

The school aims to help build a platform that will connect the different organizing efforts of youth of African descent in the region, fulfil intergovernmental commitments and bring together egalitarian societies, in full possession of their rights. “This school must contribute to the discussion on major issues, such as the deconstruction of discrimination and structural racism, and help create inclusive societies, which support development models that guarantee the full exercise of fundamental rights,” he said.

He added: “As the United Nations Population Fund, we are committed to promoting the rights of all people and leaving no one behind. This is not an isolated effort; it is connected to another of our efforts, ‘165 Million Reasons’, which has a component that addresses the issue of race, ethnicity and youth participation. Most importantly, it is a call for countries to make investments so that young people can exercise their rights.”

The EscuelAfro initiative also benefits young people, such as Afrodescendant leader Jembel Chifundo, who expressed her enthusiasm at the idea of more leaders like her “generating more capacity so they can participate in the different agendas and advance the rights of youth of African descent”. Marco Antonio Ramírez, president of Ashanti Perú, agreed: “This is an opportunity to respond to the thematic training needs that we are hearing about from different organizations, such as identity and how to continue participating and advocating with an inclusive and local approach.”

UNFPA and young people of African descent

UNFPA Latin America and the Caribbean currently supports actions in eight countries in the region – Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Suriname and Ecuador – for the development of young people of African descent. In Peru, for example, a study is being carried out on the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights of adolescents and indigenous and Afrodescendant youth, in the context of the pandemic. 

These actions for the benefit of young people of African descent represent an opportunity to reduce and eradicate the gaps of inequality and structural racism that have prevented this population from fully exercising its rights, as part of the UNFPA Latin America and the Caribbean regional strategy to leave no one behind, which contributes to the 2030 Agenda on the road to sustainable development.

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