Lynn University’s Social Impact Lab hosts seminar on Human Rights in Latin America.

By Gretchen Lembcke-Pena, Editor-in-Chief

On September 22, the Social Impact Lab led by its director Dr. Antonella Regueiro, hosted a seminar on the United Nations’s new Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights in Latin America.

            The seminar took place in the Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall, located inside the deHoernle International Center. Dr. Regueiro began the seminar explaining how the human rights movement began in Latin America, due to the corruption and discrimination that continues to occur to this day. She also divulged into the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals, abbreviated SDGs, such as no poverty, gender equality and reduced inequality, designed to aid in the betterment of society.

            “I think it’s important for you to get involved in the things that you care about. If you notice, most of our social problems are related to a Sustainable Development Goal,” said Dr. Regueiro. “So whatever you can do to help actually helps further a Sustainable Development Goal, because it is just a matter of identifying what you’re passionate about, what you care about, what you want to get involved with and doing something about it.”

            The seminar continued with three speakers: Laura F. Kelley, Lisa Konczal and Amanda Knapp, who are all involved in the protection of refugees that attempt to cross the border. Kelley, immigration attorney and founder of LFK Immigration PA, spoke of a few of the cases that she has done, delving into the process and the injustices within it. Although a difficult area of work, she remains passionate about what she does and continues to do everything she can to catalyze change within the Latin American community.

            “It’s that invaluable human spirit that inspires me. I have volunteered in detention facilities in the border where women and children have been detained. And seeing a woman who is at times 18, 19, 20 years old who have been victims of domestic violence, victims of rape, victims of incest; sometimes their children are the product of rape or incest,” said Kelley. “But to love those children so unconditionally as to take them from their homes, and go through a journey of great peril in order to survive? To me, it is inspirational.”

            The seminar continued with Lisa Konczal, Nicaragua Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA, and her work as someone representing and defending Nicaraguan citizens, who are going through a large struggle. Konczal spoke of the government’s violent retaliation towards its citizens for fighting for their human rights. The topic of “forced disappearance” is one of the most notorious incidents in Nicaragua, where citizens opposing the government disappear and are never seen again.

            “A lot of the barriers and immigration law that we have [in the U.S] have been the biggest obstacle in aiding Nicaragua’s citizens,” said Konczal. “The immigration courts, they’re a mess. Sometimes, it all depends on the attorney and how they feel about immigrants unfortunately; sometimes, it depends on the judge.”

            The speakers ended with Amanda Knapp, Coordinator of Administrative Services at the Maurice A. Ferre Institute in FIU, who further delved into the SDGs, specifically in Latin America. Knapp explained that Latin American countries, although having agreed to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, have struggled to do so due to lack of resources and major setbacks from COVID-19. 

            “My favorite SDG is number five, the protection for women and girls, and since I’m so passionate, all my research is on human trafficking,” said Knapp. “But though human trafficking doesn’t only affect men, a majority of the victims are girls. So, I think that is an SDG that could be accomplished [in Latin America] and would get more than human trafficking. It would also give democratic rights, economic freedom, reproductive rights… and if people were more empowered, then they’d have a better chance of creating a strong democracy.”

            The seminar concluded with a Q&A from students, who asked questions regarding hope for Latin America and solutions for these ongoing issues. Many stayed behind and spoke to the speakers for a few minutes – a testimony of the impact left on those fortunate to attend.

Above: From left to right: Laura F. Kelley, Amanda Knapp, Antonella Regueiro and Lisa Konczal.

 Above: Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall. Photo/Gretchen Lembcke-Pena.

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