Buenos Aires – April 10, 2013— For youth growing up in deprived neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, education is not always a top priority. Making a living, caring for family and a myriad of other factors often take precedence.
"I dropped out of school after the second year as I got bored and did not see the point,” said one young man. “I went to work but did not really know what to do with my life. I felt as if I was in a desert - only the sky above me and sand all around, nothing else.”
To help combat this issue, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and EUROsociAL hosted a workshop in Buenos Aires this week for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds who are part of a government program called “Youth With More and Better Work,” (Jóvenes con más y mejor trabajo) which aims to provide them with the training and skills they need to improve their access to employment. They work in Access to Justice centers in their neighborhoods, receive weekly training classes and are encouraged to complete their formal education.
The workshop was part of a project to improve the ability of institutional partners to guarantee access to rights. Over three days, forty young men and women (aged 18 to 24) designed a rights awareness campaign for young people from vulnerable communities. While brainstorming themes for the campaign, education was an overwhelming element. The participants discussed how finishing school is a means to lift oneself out of the vicious cycle of poverty-violence-“at risk” situations, and shared their stories.
"I always wanted to finish school as my cousins are in prison for drug-related offences and I did not want to end up like them,” said one participant. “When my daughter was born I dropped out of school but then I managed to pick it up again thanks to a school that had childcare facilities. Since I joined this program, my life has completely changed."
Other themes included drugs and other addictions, domestic and gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health and social inclusion. The group is using education as an overarching theme to encompass the other issues, as through education youth from impoverished backgrounds have more options for a better future and can avoid falling into addiction and violence traps.
"I did not really think about going to school as everyone around me kept telling me there was no point,” said one participant. “Then I went to the local Centre for Access to Justice to seek advice and the girls there talked me into it - that made me feel important, that someone was concerned about my future. I finished high school and qualified as a cook. If I could do it, anyone can."
And therein lies the message these youth want to send to their peers. If they can do it, so can anyone else, and the results will be well worth it.