Ashanti Peru Works to End Discrimination and Empower Afro-Peruvian Youth

Participants in the Ashanti Perú Afro-descendent Youth Civic Citizen School, which trains Afro-Peruvian youth to participate in local, regional, and national decision-making.

In much of Latin America, people of African descent face discrimination, poverty, and exclusion from political decision-making. These problems are especially dire for Afro-Peruvian women, youth, and members of the LGBTIQ+ community. Ashanti Perú, Red Peruana de Jóvenes Afrodescendientes (Network of Peruvian Afro-Descendent Youth)—a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)—builds youth leadership capacity to defend their human rights and combat racism by participating actively in policy and decision-making.

“Afro-Peruvian youth are more vulnerable due to racial discrimination,” said General Secretary of Ashanti Perú Lia Zevallos Malasquez,. “They also have greater gaps in access to public services such as education and health. In addition, they have worse conditions in access to work and higher education. This combination of situations prevents a large part of Afro-Peruvian youth from being able to mobilize socially and overcome the conditions of poverty, which restricts their opportunities and rights.”

On June 3, 2022 Ashanti Perú held a roundtable on youth views on diversity in sexual orientation as part of its event series “What do the youth say?.

Since its founding in 2004, Ashanti Perú has helped Afro-Peruvian youth overcome these challenges. Today, Ashanti Perú works across the county in areas with large Afro-Peruvian populations and has a network of over 500 volunteers. The organization serves as a space for meeting and training of young leaders of African descent, and has initiatives to promote pride in Afro-Peruvian culture while acknowledging the challenges facing the community. Ashanti’s programs build youth capacity and knowledge in multiple areas, including economic empowerment, political participation, human rights, women’s rights, reproductive rights, and LGBTIQ+ rights.

“Ashanti Perú’s role is important because it contributes to provide spaces to promote the political participation of young Afro-descendants and to have an institution that can help them interact and connect with the needs of the Afro-Peruvian community,” said Zevallos. “In this way we are empowering young people who are involved from their diverse identities for the strengthening of Peruvian democracy.”

According to Zevallos, building space for the Afro-Peruvian  has been one of the organization’s greatest successes, but it can also be very challenging due to underrepresentation of minorities.

“Our greatest achievements have been to become involved in political advocacy, participating and promoting legislative initiatives or policies that benefit Afro-Peruvian people and vulnerable populations,” she said. “It is very difficult to promote policies or initiatives due to the lack of visibility of the Afro-Peruvian agenda. Perú has been and continues to be a country with a lot of racism and ethnic-racial discrimination.”

Ahead of the 2022 regional and municipal elections, Ashanti is collecting responses to a youth survey to identify the demands of diverse youth across the country. The survey results will be used to build a collective youth agenda, which will be presented to Congress and election candidates to give youth a voice in policymaking. The organization is also holding a series of roundtables called ¿Qué dicen las juventudes? (What do the youth say?) to discuss young peoples’ opinions on various issues, including gender and women’s empowerment, sexual diversity, education, and the current political situation. At the same time, Ashanti is collecting signatures in support of a law that would recognize the legacy and identity of Afro-Peruvian people in the country’s constitution.

Ashanti Perú released a survey on “Constructing a Youth Agenda” for people between the ages of 17 and 29 to share their priorities with politicians ahead of the regional and municipal elections.

Ashanti and the Afro-Peruvian youth leaders trained by the organization work to encourage recognition of social diversity and to advance the rights of minority population overall. In 2021, Ashanti created a joint campaign, the Committee for Equality and Non-Discrimination, with several other human rights organizations. As a result, several candidates pledged to include agendas for inclusion in their campaigns and the goals created around the Perú’s bicentennial celebrations.

“Ashanti Perú has been a leader in promoting greater recognition and participation for not only the Afro-descendent community, but other traditionally marginalized communities in Perú such as the LGBTIQ+ community, indigenous people, and people with disabilities,” said Samuel Boehms, program officer for Latin America and the Caribbean at NED. “Although they face many challenges, they are working across intersectional communities to nurture future leaders and build an inclusive society where everyone’s human rights are respected.”

Learn More about NED’s Work in Latin America and the Caribbean.