Young Leaders Gather To “Arm Peace” In Central America

  • July 25, 2011
  • News

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image Seeking to build a culture of peace throughout Central America, young people, joined by representatives of government, industry, civil society and international organizations, convened on July 7-8 in Guatemala City.

The regional forum, “Armando Peace” (Forging Peace), was sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS), in collaboration with the Guatemalan Ministry of Education, The National Youth Council (CONJUVE) and the Central American Educational and Cultural Coordination unit (CECC-SICA).  Present at this first regional meeting were participants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and Dominican Republic.

Young leaders at the forum were invited to propose projects that would “Arm Peace” in the areas of culture, health, education, and employment.

AID FOR AIDS was represented at the forum by four young leaders on our Panamanian staff: Carlos Pavel, Coordinator of HIV Prevention Programs; Rita Banus, Psychologist at the Care Centre for children and adolescents, Catherine Quintero, Assistant to the Prevention Program at AID FOR AIDS Panama; and Egdiel Arauz, a multiplying agent who graduated from the “Cuanto Sabes?” program. The young leaders were there to present a project focused on the promotion of gender equality.

Pavel said the two-day peace forum featured three distinct stages. The first phase was a creativity workshop, aimed at giving young leaders tools to develop creative capacity to solve social problems. The second phase was a Project Fair in which these leaders presented their proposals for which they were selected to attend the Forum. The final phase featured a dialogue among representatives of the youth organizations, international agencies, governments and the private sector, to articulate specific areas of action to be taken by the youth.

“Our project, “Building Peace to Find A Solution for Growing Inequality,”
takes aim at gender inequality, gender-based violence and the increasing feminization of HIV,” explained Pavel.  “The main purpose of our project is to educate young men and women on the importance of respecting gender equity in everyday life, as a key in stopping the growth of the HIV epidemic and ensuring mutually satisfactory, non-violent behavior.”

“We seek to sensitize young people in their daily lives by promoting non-violence in relationships,” added AFAI’s Quintero. “We want to make them aware of the increasing feminization of HIV. Health Ministry figures show that the gap in HIV prevalence between men and women has decreased from an historical 3:1 ratio to only 1.4:1. This is a worrisome development.”

Armed with this knowledge and the appropriate organizational tools, concluded Pavel, young people can become major change agents in their communities.

“AID FOR AIDS has long been committed to the eradication of the stigma of HIV and to sensitizing young people about that stigma. Forcefully addressing the issue of increasing gender inequality is a natural step in the evolution of our youth educational efforts.”