Student Ana Barreto the First New School Participant of UN Fellowship for People of African Descent

International Affairs student Ana Barreto was selected to participate in the UN Fellowship for People of African Descent. In this post, she details her experience visiting Geneva and establishing solidarity with other fellows.

2018 was a memorable year for me. Thanks to the International Field Program, I was able to visit and live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I interned for the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Human Rights Office. While there, I worked on human rights issues such as gender equality, and participated in discussions on the integration of these issues into political, humanitarian, and economic efforts. I also had the opportunity to work with the UN Special Mission on South Sudan in the country, which was one of the most fascinating experiences of my professional life. Most notably, I became a United Nations Fellow and visited Europe for the first time.

UN Fellows on a tour in Geneva

I consider myself a human rights activist. All of my work experience is related to the promotion of the human rights of vulnerable communities. At 15 years old, I started my involvement in activism as a volunteer teacher for the kids in my community. I worked with several grassroots movements in Brazil and Latin America for racial equity in the region and, during my time in the United States, began focusing on women’s health. Due to this work, I was selected by the United Nations to be one of the participants of the UN Fellowship for People of African Descent within the context of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent. The fellowship is highly competitive and around 10 people are selected per year. I am the first New School student to the selected for this program.

UN Fellows with the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African descent

During my time in Geneva, I had the privilege of meeting people doing fantastic work in promoting a world without racial discrimination. I was able to further understand the realities of African-descent people in the UK, France, Norway, Denmark, Jamaica, Colombia, Canada, and El Salvador, which improved my knowledge of the global and contemporary consequences of colonialism. The program was a strategic opportunity for human rights professionals to connect with like-minded people and create deep international solidarity. We learned about international human rights law, the UN human rights system, and how to use international framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intersecting forms of discrimination with a focus on people of African descent. Fellows attended sessions with Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, and many other high level government officials and stakeholders. In the official sessions, we spoke about our own countries’ situations and responded to questions raised by attendants from all over the world.

UN Fellows with the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African descent

To be a UN fellow is an important achievement for me as well as to my community in Brazil. Growing up in ┬áBrazil, I realized that gaining access to formal education was based on privilege more than intellectual competence. The opportunity to further study international human rights to directly improve the lives of the most marginalized communities such as my own is essential to me–and I am glad I am finally making it.