When Francisco Vera Manzanares asked to speak at a session of the Colombian Senate in 2019, his speech was firm, but few paid heed. It was enough to raise the subject of tax reform – an issue at the time sensitive to the government, since thousands of demonstrators demonstrated in the streets of Bogotá – and the 300 or so present immediately fell silent.
“You, the leaders who legislate for life, must fight for a sustainable planet. They should vote against [a proposta], because it’s disrespectful to the Colombian people, ”he said, eliciting boos and applause. Manzanares said goodbye leaving a gray haired audience in astonishment. After all, it’s not always that a nine-year-old talks about economics and the environment.
The scene recalled in the local press the activism of 18-year-old Greta Thunberg in front of the Swedish Parliament in 2018, an act that germinated the creation of the global movement Fridays for Future (Fridays for the Future), in which students skip classes. to demand action to curb climate change.
Affected with the same interests in favor of the environment, Francisco and Greta quickly became virtual friends and today exchange likes on social networks and ideas to stop the emission of pollutants.
“I really admire Greta’s work and what she represents to the world,” he tells Folha Manzanares, who has seen plans to meet the Swede personally frozen due to the pandemic. It then remained to focus its efforts on the NGO Guardiães pela Vida, which earned it a letter of recognition from the UN signed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in 2020.
According to Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund), the interest of young people in subjects of social mobilization continues to grow. “We are living at a high point in the history of Latin America, where young people are the protagonists of changes and transformations,” said Emilia Numer, Unicef consultant in development and participation of adolescents on the continent.
Since 2016, the entity has been organizing, with its partners, Concausa, an event that brings together social and environmental innovation actions promoted by adolescents aged 14 to 17 in their communities. From 2018 to 2019, there was a 74% increase in the number of interested parties and the emergence of new agendas.
Favorite topics are climate change, women’s rights and violence. The next edition is scheduled for the end of this year, in Chile, and registration is open until April 15.
Another example of this movement is the Mexican Luis Ricardo Ordaz Zaragoza, 6 years old. Unable to play in the place due to the Covid-19 crisis, he decides to write, with the help of his father – an economist – a book on subjects that moved him, such as the friend who sold candy with his mother near his home.
“I want a better world, without wars, without waste at sea and without poverty”, summarizes the author of “El Niño que Quiso Cambiar el Mundo” (the boy who wanted to change the world, Editorial Utrilla, 2020), a book it raises questions about poverty, the environment and wars.
The ebook became the bestseller on the Mexican Amazon from week one, carried by a publisher interested in the material and now preparing for the launch of the physical book, with participation in literary fairs in Spain, Argentina and in Italy.
While environmental guidelines are the main banner of this generation, mini-activists are addressing other issues as well. Thirteen-year-old Tiziana Contrera was one of the first transgender girls to obtain official documents with her social name in Argentina. The feat catapulted the spokesperson for the struggle for children and families of transgender people from two important movements in the country: MTA (Trans Argentina Women) and Sigla (Society for Gay Lesbian Integration in Argentina).
“My fight is for all trans people to have a better childhood than older trans and a lot better than the life I’ve had,” she says, adding that she always faces the stares of older neighbors. preservatives.
Tiziana claims to have a support network: the “aunts of the movement” and the friends she made at the new school, “of both sexes, because I am very social with everyone”. In a few years, she will begin treatment for a hormone block which will make sex reassignment surgery possible in the future.
“Social movements have always had the participation of children and adolescents, but they had little impact because they relied on coverage from mainstream media. Today, social networks allow a wider demonstration, with people who have the same interest, the same age and the same way of communicating ”, explains Mario Volpi, coordinator of the citizenship program for adolescents at Unicef. in Brazil.
It is thanks to a viral video that Maria Érica Rocha Simão, 12, was able to put pressure on the municipality of Coelho Neto, inside Maranhão, to build a toy library in the region.
“With the pandemic, many people found themselves without classes. I took some materials from the trash can and decided to create a reading space, with a blackboard, table and chair. Since I have a scholarship in a private school and the lessons are going on virtually, I decided to help the children who are not so fortunate, ”he says.
Currently, Maria Érica teaches 20 children, from 4 to 12 years old. “Changing the world is very important and we children have great ideas. Adults need to hear from us.
“Youth leadership is important because it breaks this adult vision that ‘it has always been like this and always will be”. The strength of youth ultimately mobilizes other young people. It ends up being a break from something already structured, ”says Volpi. Just like Greta, whose Latin name means “to break with something”.