In response to the Gender, Children and Youth on the Move conference in Tijuana, Nancy Pérez, a local youth leader from Jóvenes por el Cambio and a professional boxer based in Guatemala, wrote the following message for funders. Her reflection is translated from Spanish.
We are women, we are fighters, we are strong, we are intelligent, we are rebellious. Let our rebelliousness be the force for change.
Over three days, we participated, we shared, we lived, and we interacted with more than 75 organisation s from Central and North America that work on issues of human rights, migration, gender, childhood, adolescence, and youth. Listening to various peers, together we participated in the panel titled The Faces of Migrant Youth, and we shared our story from the moment we began to achieve change from our places of origin.
We came from various communities, municipalities, departments, and states in which to be young means vulnerability, little creditability, challenges and obstacles that impact young women and men. They [authorities] only take us into consideration to fill rooms that do not represent our voices or votes, that stigmatise youth as a disinterested population – one that doesn’t like to do anything or get involved in social change.
But, through engagement, participation, and leadership of each boy, girl, and young person, we have advocated for authorities to listen to our voices and for our proposals to be considered. We have founded organisation s for youth to change this system and this poor perception of us. All of these efforts have been through education, sports, art, culture, workshops, meetings, trainings, and other activities that build up the participation and engagement of young men and women, because we believe in them. We know that youth are a large population: in our country of Guatemala, youth make up 67 per cent of the population, full of potential, talent, and virtues to strengthen and develop.
We come from countries where the government is not interested in investing in us, but thankfully we count on national and international organisation s that support us, listen to us, and believe in the power that we have to change the world.
Some of the threats and challenges we find in our environment are the rejection, labels, and stigmas that are placed on us. Adultcentrism, quality of life, poverty, lack of access to basic services, and lack of employment are some of the obstacles we face to our development and achievement. Being a young person is a challenge, but being a young women, being a young indigenous women, being a LGBTTTIQ+ young person, or being a differently abled young person is complicated in this society. It is necessary to strengthen spaces to generate opportunities and conditions for inclusion of everyone.
May the adults see us with potential; may they guide us, advise us, and believe in us; may they not see us as something to exploit; may we be allies and not enemies.
We won’t let stereotypes, labels, negative comments, or our living conditions decide who we want to be. We see life like boxing: we should prepare constantly, push ourselves, and not let our guard down in order to fight for our individual and collective goals.
Nancy Pérez is President of Jóvenes por el Cambio.