Pride Month: “As a human rights educator, I am here to inspire and be inspired”

To celebrate Pride Month during June, we talk to a human rights lawyer from Brazil who has become a Global Youth Ambassador for Theirworld.

Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors will be marking Pride Month during June by promoting inclusive LGBTQI+ education and campaigning for the LGBTQI+ community. 

In the latest in our Spotlight On … series, we talk to Arnaldo de Santana, a Global Youth Ambassador from Brazil. He is a 27-year-old lawyer who specialises in human rights and human rights education. Arnaldo is also a student of international relations and a member of the diversity commission of the legal bar in Bahia state. 

Arnaldo became a Theirworld Global Youth Ambassador (GYA) this year. The programme connects a community of about 2,000 young activists who are united in their passion for social justice and the right to education. 

What was it like growing up in your community?

I always felt different and sometimes I thought about what was I supposed to do with my life. I was somewhat aware of my feelings about other boys. But going to church, I was always told that those feelings were not part of what God meant for us as human beings. 

Did things change as you got older?

Growing, feeling the pain about wanting to be myself and not being able to do so, I tried to date but never felt like it would fit me. I felt distant from everything, unempowered and not myself. Any time I tried to think about who I was, my thoughts were aways replaced by what my family and God would think about me. 

How has education played a role in your life?

Education was always the escape I had growing up. My mother was a teacher. I also used education to research and learn about history and, in doing so, learn about myself. It has also been a tool to engage others.   

I got the opportunity to be a human rights educator. I am here to inspire and be inspired by activists, humans and LGBTQIA+ people all around the world who fight every day against conservatism, misogyny and under-representation. I feel so glad to be there and to be the voice I needed years ago but couldn’t find.  

Now I get to break the status quo imposed on us by the heritage of the colonialism that made us feel like no one could understand what we have and who we are. 

How have your experiences contributed to where you are today?

I am now writing in a time where I get to be what I always wanted: to be sure of who I am. I am part of my community, representing my people and our collective needs. I get to defend, empower and educate people and give them what I never had – being part of society with no anxiety about being who I am.

What would you say to someone who is in a similar position to you when you were younger?

For me and you, friends, lovers, families and allies are here to bring some hope that your future is full of greatness. Your future is open to you to be who you are and there is a community ready to welcome you.

Why did you become a GYA and what you hope to get out of the programme?

I became a GYA to be closer to young people all around the world connected to education. I want be part of a global educational movement, as well as raise awareness about human rights. I hope to promote the rights of LGBTQI+ young people, building on my own experience as a brown LGBT young person from the global south.