As you all know, a new round of bloggers will soon begin to write, so I guess this is one of my last posts! I’ve enjoyed each one of the almost 20 posts I’ve written since March 2009, but I’ve enjoyed even more reading and hearing your comments and thoughts. This is what it’s all about: Hearing what our generation has to say about the main issues that are related to our world’s development. Even though I have to admit that I’m going to miss thinking about new topics to share with you, I’m also excited about the new approaches that the new bloggers will bring to Youthink!.
Precisely because of this, I chose Latin youth participation as the main topic of this post. All international experiences I’ve had—even though they’ve been very enriching because they’ve taught me that our generation is global, and that we share basic concerns regardless of where we’re from—have shown me that youth participation in the Latin portion of the Americas is seemingly not as strong as in continents such as Africa or Asia. “What is it?” I used to wonder, “is it that we just don’t care as much?” But I’m sure that we do. We just need new means to be heard and governments that show they care about what we have to say.
I asked some young leaders in my country about this topic and got some interesting responses. Daniel, Director of RECOJO (Colombian Network of Youth), told me that he has confirmed that young people in Colombia and other Latin American countries do care about our development, but usually don’t know how to participate, or find that existing means of participation are not targeted to them. This is why initiatives such as RECOJO are very important. In RECOJO it's all about doing, instead of just saying how things should be or should work. Members of the network are social entrepreneurs who want to take our country’s development in their own hands. In fact, María Fernanda, who is a member of RECOJO staff and the young mind behind the Cielo a Tierra program (Heaven to Earth) says that her participation drive became even stronger when she realized that she could use the knowledge and structure she acquired in college to design a program with potential of giving meaning to the social work thousands of young high school students do as a requirement to obtain their degrees.
Alex, another member of RECOJO and head of Colombia Pa’lante (Colombia moving forward), told me the improvement of people’s quality of life has been his passion since the first time he set foot in a small village where the possibility of managing productive projects was all people had to work towards a better present and future. Like María Fernanda, he also felt that his knowledge in projects formulation could be put to very meaningful use by helping people in rural areas consolidate their projects.
RECOJO has received many messages from youth in other Latin American countries who would like to start their own networks. These experiences, in addition to the others I have gotten to know in Guatemala, and the ones that I have developed, or been involved with, constitute the proof I need: what young Latin American people need are ways to become change agents and directly contribute to the improvement of our people’s conditions. These initiatives are gaining momentum, which therefore should motivate governments to start (or continue) listening to what we have to say and give importance to what we can do. This is why policies focused on youth participation are very much needed in our countries.
Go Latin participation! Our voices need to be heard and the passion we put into our actions need to be the inspiration for many other youths who are looking for ways to contribute. Let’s learn from our friends from Africa and Asia, let’s put our issues in the spotlight and work together as the global generation we are, to bring about a new and improved world.