Youth as Catalysts of Change

By José Martín Solórzano González

I remembered my first day in college seven years ago: With no more than a few pesos in my pocket, I found myself in the situation of not having a place to sleep, and even worst, not having enough money to eat. At one point, I've asked help from a lot of people, but everyone answered me the same way: "You are indigenous, please don't fly higher than you can do." As an indigenous individual living in a marginalized and poverty-stricken community, I was confined to perpetuate the same condition that has been going on for many generations.

Fortunately, I was able to break the cycle of obstacles that had previously chained me to a life of misery and discrimination. Today, I am already a doctor, the first one from my family and our community. The process has never been easy: hunger, cold, lack of sleep, sadness, and tears were just some of the words that describe what I've gone through. Now, I am a recent graduate doctor, with plenty of energy to work for my community and be an inspiration to others.

In recent decades, Mexico has undertaken a process of renewal, where the support and improvement of the quality of life of indigenous peoples has been a key factor in the struggle against marginalization and extreme poverty. However, despite long social obstacles and government efforts, our people are still fighting many challenges including continuing poverty, marginalization, discrimination, and lack of equal opportunity. I understand that the fight is not easy, but this engenders an impulse to youth to lead better, to work hard, and to continue to eliminate all kinds of societal diseases.

I consider myself lucky for the opportunities I've had, and the experiences that I've lived. In 2013, I was selected as the Mexican Youth Delegate to the United Nations, which instigated a radical change in my life. It made me experience the real processes and decisions being made from behind the scene. I met with important social institutions and global players and was exposed to diverse ideas and perspectives with high social sense. From that moment on, I made the decision and took upon myself the responsibility to fight for the benefit of the indigenous peoples of my country-by defending their rights, preserving and disseminating the culture, and improving their quality of life-because I had lived the same life and had experienced the difficulties they are going through every day.

In February 2015, despite having several financial complications, I was able to take the long trip from my small town in North Chiapas (a state in the southeast of Mexico) to New York City to be a delegate for the Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations. The two-day conference, for me, is one of the most important and rewarding experiences of my life. The meeting focused on discussions about the Millennium Development Goals and setting the stage for the Post-2015 Agenda. This meeting brought together hundreds of young leaders from around the world to discuss and debate about world issues ranging from social, political, and economic problems and challenges, as well as the ways and means to get the right solutions.

I was stunned since the first day upon seeing young people gather in one place, all at the same time, with so much energy, talent, leadership, and commitment to improve the quality of life of their people. We were able to share our experiences, ideas, perspectives, and life projects to achieve one common goal: the success of MDGs and SDGs in our nations. The Winter Youth Assembly has also given us the opportunity to interact with representatives of the United Nations on Youth and Social Development who have shared their past and current work; social leaders who have made a difference and served as role models; plus non-profit institutions that are working hard to empower youth and are opening doors to better opportunities for their improvement.

It was the perfect opportunity for us to get the mentorship, the support, and the right tools to fulfill our social goals. I say this because I was one of the three lucky winners of the Social Venture Challenge sponsored by The Resolution Project. Our winning youth project is called "BuildingHealth", which works to provide social assistance to poverty-stricken and vulnerable communities, with emphasis on Indigenous Populations of Mexico. This award filled us with a lot of pride and energy to work harder and to act with commitment with our goals.

We are crossing a path of crucial moment as youth, and it is our duty as young leaders to continue working for social welfare, where there are opportunities of success for all and where poverty, marginalization, inequality, or any form of discrimination doesn't exist. Only through this can we ensure a better future for our descendants.

We have to be the leaders that our world needs, who act as catalysts of change in our nations, communities, and families.

José Martín Solórzano González is an indigenous young leader from México, who served as the Mexican Youth Delegate to United Nations in 2013. Currently, he works as Indigenous Representative working in defense of the indigenous rights and towards the preservation and diffusion of his indigenous culture. He is also the co-founder of "BuildingHealth", a project that provides social assistance to indigenous people in Southeast Mexico.