Ana Sáenz de Tejada: "It is time to take seriously the work that young women do to build more peaceful societies and above all to advance gender equality."

Ana Sáenz is a young feminist Guatemalan student of Political Science with studies in gender and feminism. She is committed to defending the rights of women and students to a quality higher education free of violence. She is the former Secretary of Gender of the Association of University Students "Oliverio Castañeda de León" (2017-2019). She is currently a member of the Inter-University Network Safe and Educated (RISE) and national gender activist of Guatemala for UN Women. 


Photo: Courtesy of Ana Sáenz de Tejada

What is the role, and why is youth participation important in peacebuilding and sustainable recovery from crises?

Youth throughout the region are mobilized and working as peacebuilders and human rights defenders. Youth involvement is vital to achieving peacekeeping and sustainable recovery from crises. I have seen, especially from the student community, how youth always mobilize to defend democracy and all that it implies to demand respect for the human rights of all people. In all critical areas to achieve peacebuilding, there are young people who, from their spaces and possibilities, work to move forward. 

Photo: Courtesy of Ana Sáenz de Tejada

How can we promote more significant youth participation in constructing more peaceful societies with gender equality, inclusion, and sustainability?

The first step in promoting more meaningful youth participation is to take us seriously. It is time to take seriously the work that young people do to build more peaceful societies and move forward with gender equality. This implies more than inviting us to events to discuss issues related to gender equality or peace, integrating us into decision-making spaces, and ensuring that we can express ourselves freely about the needs, ideas, and proposals that arise from the youth and that they are taken into account.  

Being young does not mean that we are inexperienced or that we do not know what we are talking about. The circumstances we have lived through have led us to become activists. That means that we have been working towards a goal for some time and that we can express our opinions, propose and carry out activities that will eventually transform our environments. We are already doing so.  

Youth Day is an opportunity to take an interest in and learn about the work that young people are doing throughout the region to advance the construction of more peaceful societies. It is important to acknowledge the work young women do to build societies free of violence, in which we can develop our full potential. There are many areas in which we are working on this issue.  

Even so, young organizations face many obstacles in the process of generating changes. One of these obstacles is access to funding. Still, another critical one is access to real decision-making spaces that are binding, and that allows us to put the priorities and needs of young people on the table. More spaces for youth is the answer. 

Photo: Courtesy of Ana Sáenz de Tejada

How can intergenerational solidarity be promoted for building a culture of peace and sustainable recovery for the achievement of the SDGs? 

I believe one way to promote intergenerational solidarity is to create dialogue spaces where organizations from different generations can exchange opinions and experiences based on respect. There are often spaces where adultcentrism and paternalism towards youth organizations are common. This blocks any possibility of generating solidarity between organizations. There is also a lack of knowledge about the historical background of women's organizations, which prevents solidarity formation. There must be a balance to achieve respect and the possibility of coordination between generations. 


The opinions are the author's responsibility and do not reflect an official position of UN Women or any other agency of the United Nations System.