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Leidy D. Lasprilla: Working at the intersection of human rights and the climate crisis

Leidy D. Lasprilla is a social activist, a human rights defender and a biology graduate. She is currently an environmental leader at Artex Social in the city of Palmira, Colombia, where she teaches and empowers youth with leadership skills to act on environmental issues. She decided to take part in  Global Rights Connection, Equitas’ human rights education online training, to broaden her knowledge and increase the impact of her work 

“Right now, we are living an environmental emergency. Therefore, we, the youth, must work toward a better ecosystem, a better planet. We are the last generation who can change things. We can do it and we will do it.” 

Leidy was only 13 when she and her family were forced to flee their neighborhood, because of the growing violence. This propelled her to help others who were in similar situations where basic human rights are violated. In her new neighborhood, she joined a youth group that was doing community and charity work, such as helping elders and single-parent families with daily tasks. Her involvement increased her leadership abilities, until she herself became the group’s leader. Thus, her path as a human rights defender began. 

Passionate about science, her bachelor’s degree in biology made her more and more aware of the worldwide environmental crisis and its impact on human rights. The link between the two is something not often talked about: “Human rights and the environment are completely linked, because human beings are part of the ecosystem and the current climate crisis is largely the fault of our bad habits. If we do nothing to counteract this emergency, we will be the ones who will be severely affected, thus making it impossible to enjoy fundamental human rights such as the right to life, to a healthy environment, clean water, clean air and many others. Some populations are already in this situation, and are suffering from it.”

To do her part, Leidy joined Artex Social as an environmental leader volunteer. Artex Social is an organization that aims to provide tools and leadership skills for youth aged 5 to 15 on diverse social issues through the creation of educational workshops and activities, ranging from eco-friendly initiatives to dance classes. In this sense, Global Rights Connection has been a more than useful asset in the conception of Leidy’s workshops, as the training seeks to equip participants with the capacities to carry out human rights education activities and ensure a subsequent positive social change. 

“Artex Social gives young people the opportunity to improve their leadership skills and a space to strengthen the development of their imagination and creativity. We also carry out artistic classes, such as painting or dancing, which allows the externalization of emotions, because some of these children are often surrounded by situations of violence, or drugs.” 

As an environmental leader, Leidy’s role is to develop workshops on environment, sustainability, consumption and ecological footprint. She notably conducted “recycling campaigns to rectify waste disposal regulations in order to generate good habits in the children, and strengthen the human right to a sustainable and healthy environment.” It is through her involvement that she discovered one of her biggest passions: teaching. 

“Teaching is something that really moves me. When I am teaching, I am able to share all of my knowledge that I have acquired over time and make an impact on the children and their environment. It’s very satisfying to me to see how education can be so beneficial for my community, to the point that it changes the participants’ habits progressively, until it finally becomes automatic.” She recognizes that teaching is a massive challenge. “But it’s incredible to have the possibility to help many people on their way, to guide them and to be part of the process.” 

When Leidy found out about Global Rights Connection on social media, she saw it as valuable opportunity of complement to her studies. “It’s really wonderful, and empowering,” she mentions. “The program has taught me the importance of nurturing a culture of human rights, and it has increased my leadership skills.” She notably put emphasis on the learning spiral, an educational model promoted by Equitas that she encountered for the first time in the training. Questioning traditional models of teaching where the expert teaches and learners learn, the learning spiral instead seeks to empower learners by putting their personal experiences at the center of the process.  This notion constituted an essential gain for the conception of her workshops. 

To participate in the training, Leidy was generously granted a bursary from long-time Equitas supporter and former President of the Board of Directors, Alena Perout.  As the Dean responsible for International Education at Vanier College, Ms. Perout has a shared interest with Leidy for the intersection of human rights and the environment and was thrilled to support her efforts. Economic resources being a constant limitation to her ambitions, this represents an immense opportunity for Leidy. “Thanks to this bursary”, she concludes, “people like me – leaders and human rights defenders – who dream of a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable world, have a chance to continue to work toward our goals and do what we like the most.”  

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