To start this post, I would like to provide a little bit of context. I participated in the online phase of the Rotary Peace Fellowship program with Class 32 in a country other than my own country of Brazil. I spent three months in Argentina and this experience strengthened my comprehension of my identity as a Latina. An identity being built since the very first moment I put a backpack on my back and decided that I wanted to know more about this region called Latin America; of which I am a part of it as a Brazilian. I remember the day I achieved a childhood dream – to see, in person, Machu Picchu, in Peru. I was 19 years old and the silence of the fog revealing the ancient mountains and the Inca city thoroughly sculpted and left a mark on my soul. I fell in love with my Latin America.
It is written on the poster: La desiguald – no va más (Spanish)/ Inequality – no more
This post is a mixture of my perceptions of contemporary Brazil as a Brazilian, my reflections about similarities and differences among Latin American countries while in Argentina, and my interest in researching the theme of identities.
Discrimination from a Latin American Point of View:
Growing up in Brazil and being raised by the women in my family, which have a lower class background and are from a rural area in the country, taught me how to live in a society full of prejudices. It also taught me how to look in the eyes of others, similar to and different from me, and see their beauty. For this reason, discriminatory behaviors or policies are intolerable for me.
Brazil faces a high rate of discrimination, especially against black and indigenous people, women, and LGBTQ+ people. This has been confirmed by a survey conducted in Brazil by DataFolha in 2019. Among people that self-identify as black or indigenous who were interviewed, 85% state that they have suffered prejudice. It is impossible to mention discrimination without mentioning the influence of colonialism and imperialism in our history. It is part of our contemporary challenges as Latin Americans to deal with the consequences of our colonial past and the rise of attacks on our young democracies.
Besides the internal discrimination faced in Brazil, from an external perspective, right now Brazil is also playing a discriminatory role against other countries in the region. Under a right-wing extremist government, led by Jair Bolsonaro, conservative Brazilians tend to look at our Latin American neighbors as “others”. And while this separation grows and is legitimated by authorities, some Brazilians as well as national leaders freely express racially frame discrimination against other Latin American people and social movements. When it comes to people, the most affected are the ones coming to Brazil due to the recent forced migration crisis, such as in Haiti and Venezuela. And, when it comes to social change, there are movements against regional government projects and policies, even if they are being successful, in the fields of gender equality, anti-racism practices, sexual diversity, and social justice.
Although Brazil is part of Latin America, 96% of Brazilians don’t see themselves from this perspective, according to The Americas, World: Public Opinion and Foreign Policy 2014 / 2015 Report, and elaborated by the Investigative Center of Teaching in Economy (Mexico). As a comparison, among other countries in the region this rate is at about 43%. We are the only Portuguese speaking country in the region and some historic facts also contribute to this disconnect.
Prophecies: An art series by Brazilian artist Randolpho Lamonier. As translated: IN 2050 WE DISCOVERED: BRAZIL IS ¡LATIN AMERICA! © Randolpho Lamonier
Even though it is not a new issue, this Brazilian aversion to a “Latin identity” grew in relevance during the current government as it revived ideas from the times of the Brazilian military dictatorship between 1964-1985, when Brazilian military authorities considered themselves best friends to the United States of America. Usually, Brazilians deny their Latin identity and, in my opinion, this is a way to deny the atrocities—invasions, slavery, dictatorship, coup d’états, etc.—done in the past and present across our territory. With all this on the table, I would say that Brazil has a problem with its identity and the time to heal is now.
Strengthening Identities in Latin America:
Brazil has had a better relationship with other Latin American countries, and in the past has also been in a better position of promote affirmative policies to repair the historic atrocities against minority groups. This is not the case right now, but with the 2022 elections, I hope we return to a path guided by respect for the beauty of diversity, and by the intention to mitigate discrimination in a practical way, through the improvement and execution of affirmative and social justice policies.
In addition to this, sooner or later, I believe Brazilians will discover they belong to Latin America. What I also believe is that Latin American politicians, activists, and citizens have a lot to learn from each other, exactly because we share the pain of the same wounds and the strength that emerges from our common diversity.
Michelle Bravos – Brazil
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More
According to John C. Maxwell, one needs to discover and implement life choices that will take them beyond their talent. In order for a leader to be successful, he/she has to be effective in leading his/her team to think strategically, innovatively, and sustainably.
About eleven years ago I started my leadership journey with a team of young people and we were all charged with the responsibility to organize the Rotary West African Peace Caravan by, the West African Youth Network (WAYN). The Caravan was designed to promote peace at the grassroots level in four countries across West Africa: Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
I met Richelieu Allison, Executive Director of WAYN, at the Liberian-Sierra Leonean border. According to him, he saw a passion in me for peace. With his words of support, I, along with a team of other young people, engaged in a three-day training of trainers’ workshop, participated in a peace caravan, led and inspired young peace builders engaged in remote towns and villages across the four countries to promote peace and regional collaborations.
Growing up, I had always been passionate about developing my leadership skills. This passion led me to join the UN Radio to become a team lead and a child broadcaster. Later, I became more interested and started asking some tough questions related to what is leadership from the African perspective in comparison to that of the Western perspective. It has come to my understanding that leadership is about giving, listening and encouraging. One has to first listen in order to lead effectively. Today, Africa, a continent with a robust youth population, still faces a leadership challenge. Many times, leaders tend to forget that if you cannot swallow your personal pride, succeeding at leadership will rest as a dream unrealized. Many in leadership positions on the African continent maintain the popular belief that popularity is leadership. Their perspective is that a good leader’s goal is to increase his/her followers’ motivation to achieve his/her personal interests.
With this in perspective, I hold the belief that Africa is still developing its core of transformational leaders that will motivate, inspire and stimulate innovation that drives positive social change, which I believe should be the focus. In so doing, leaders need to see themselves as social change agents and hold a strong set of values with the intent to motivate – that which remains a farfetched reality in Africa. As Africa evolves as continent for charismatic leadership, it is very important to develop the growth mindset as failures offer opportunity for growth in leadership.
A good leader must at all times understand the everyday reality and must not forget that in leadership your duty is to always remember your vision, values and purpose for positive social change.
As a case study in point, leaders in Liberia should understand how leadership can facilitate social change to impact the general citizenry. Leaders in Liberia should reflect and employ learning to manage citizens’ expectations while ensuring trust and legitimacy. Leadership in Liberia today should evolve into managing expectations by effectively mobilizing social change and engaging their constituencies in the governance process through inclusive and participatory processes to achieve desired collective outcomes. These areas must be considered for a transformed society in the social change context in Liberia; more collaboration, coordination is needed between government, citizens and civil rights groups.
Amos William – Liberia
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 32Read More