21/11/2008

Gabriel - Bolivian youth activist!

Want to make an impact and get some respect for young people? Big Deal's met Gabriel Copa Chura (17) from the city of El Alto in Bolivia who’s doing just that! He’s outspoken about how young people can make a difference. He says, “I want to create a society where youth are protagonists”. Gabriel’s been trained by an organisation in Bolivia called UNITAS, which is funded by CAFOD. He speaks out for his neighbours, making sure they get what they need, like education and improved housing. Find out more about Gabriel… and see what youth power can do!Read more
Gabriel’s city has more than it’s fair share of problems… It’s a staggering 4,000 metres above sea level, in the mountains near the sprawling capital La Paz. This hectic mass of redbrick single-story buildings sprung up in under 50 years, and now has a population of 900,000 - mainly from the Aymara indigenous group.

So, communities here need leaders who can tackle problems and make sure local councils do the right things for the people. UNITAS trains leaders like Gabriel and provides vital information on local council plans, using workshops, radio and a newsletter. Now, residents have access to good information and organisation, so they can promote their rights. They have taken action against taxes for road building by the local council, and they’re supporting plans to increase education.

Gabriel got trained by UNIDAS in leadership, lobbying, and understanding his local, regional and national politics. “I have learnt about myself,” he says. “UNITAS has transformed my life - I feel fortunate to be part of the project. I am a lot more confident in expressing my opinions. I hope others can benefit too”.”

He’s got loads of opinions on what's happening in his country. “People always say what does this young person know about politics?” he says. “But more young people need to get involved in politics. I know I won’t be President, but I can start with something! We should share what we learn. Everyone should see that young people have to be respected and valued, that young people can be something”.

In Bolivia, the government is pro-poor – meaning they make policies which help poor people develop. But the government gets pressurised to promote richer elites. Gabriel keeps an eye on his leaders, and he’ll do something about it if things start to change! “A leader is someone who listens and leads,” he says. “I believe in myself"… And so do we!

Keep an eye on Big Deal for more updates from Gabriel – he’s going to be blogging for us from Bolivia!

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