Since July 2020, we have been interviewing young people from Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Costa Rica and Colombia. In these meetings, they told us about their lives, their wishes, their challenges and aIn these meetings, and above all they demonstrated a great sensitivity to the social inequalities of the world. For this reason, when we were invited to talk about privilege in the Youth Section´s Annual Colloquium, we thought it would be appropriate to share with you some questions and reflections that came to us from the interviews, as the topic of privilege was present in many of them.

Some of the interviewees told us about the social differences they find between the young people themselves. Not all of them have the same opportunities. Many today do not have the opportunity to make choices in their own lives,  or the possibility of discovering who they are and what they want to do in their lives. This is considered by some of them as a privilege that not everyone has. 

These young people even recognize themselves many times as “privileged” for having some advantages or benefits that other young people their age do not have. For example, being able to finish school and choosing what kind of job they would like to have. But then we could ask ourselves, should education be a privilege? Shouldn’t decent work be a possibility for everyone? Fair access to education and health, decent work, a house to live in… shouldn’t those be rights? Today, both terms are often mixed up and the differences between them sometimes are not clear. When is something a privilege and when should it be a right for everyone?

Nevertheless, many of them did not feel paralyzed by this feeling of social injustice. On the contrary, recognizing one’s possibilities was the motivation to act and do something about it. A feeling of responsibility grew in them when they perceived themselves as “privileged” in some aspects and acknowledged that other young people like them cannot achieve what they want. Some young people also felt that many of their achievements would not have been possible if someone had not been there at the right time to help them. Many times, they felt that they did not have any chances, and yet the possibilities appeared because someone made it possible for them. Someone who gave them a hand when they needed most and helped them also to gain courage and agency.  

Such is the gratitude that they felt when they perceived this factor in their lives, that they wanted to do something in return to others and the world. This also became a motivation to act. So, would it be right to say that with the recognition of what we perceive as privilege in our life, a sense of responsibility can grow in us and therefore establish the willingness to help each other? 

These are just some of the questions that arose for us. Privilege is not an easy subject to address as it can cause some discomfort and it is not always easy to maintain an objective and unbiased point of view. However, it is important that we continue to question ourselves, identifying the aspects of our lives we feel privileged about, what feeling arises in us when we see that others do not have the same opportunities as we do, how this makes us feel in relation to others and, most importantly, what we are going to do about it. Hopefully, in this way, we will be able to find a way to transform our privileges into positive responses to the world.

Guadalupe Olaizola, researcher of the (Re)Search in Latin America project

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