The first indigenous woman to be accepted as a PhD student at colombia’s most prestigious university began attending classes recently, thanks to the support of the Humanitas360 Institute. Since August 8, Alejandra Izquierdo, indigenous to the Arhuaca ethnic group, has been studying for her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Development Studies at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. The institution is considered one of the 5 best in Latin America.
“The children of Colombia’s top businessmen and politicians’ study at this University. I faced a rigorous academic selection, in which there were 17 other candidates. But despite having passed all exams, I still needed to prove that I would have the financial resources to attend the course. And that was only possible thanks to the support of Humanitas360,” says the young Indigenous leader.
The H360 initiative is a focus on the formation of colombia’s future leaders, and by extension, throughout Latin America. Although young, Alejandra Izquierdo, 29, built a solid career as a community leader, activist, political articulator and academic researcher. She became nationally known as a student leader during Colombia’s pacification process, earning the post of spokesperson for the young indigenous before the Federal Government. The historic agreement, signed between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government in September 2016, has become a symbol of hope for the oldest democracy on our American continent.
The relationship with the president of the Humanitas360 Institute, Patrícia Villela Marino, dates back to this time. “We met at an event called ‘Women Who Work for the World’, in which I was the newest speaker. Since then, she has been my mentor and a constant source of inspiration. I’ve already welcomed her on visits to schools in our communities in Colombia, and she took me to a panel at the Biennial of the Americas in Denver, USA. Patricia is a constant inspiration for her humility and her tireless social work,” says Izquierdo.
Two years after the signing of the peace agreement in Colombia, Alejandra obtained a diploma in Industrial Engineering from the University of Santander in Valledupar, Colombia. Her postgraduate studies included different titles, with master’s in public and Government Management, Project Management and Health Services Audit. At the same time, she led processes of empowerment of young women from indigenous communities, encouraging their participation in the management of their own communities with a focus on education, health, protection of fauna and flora in their territories.
Today, Alejandra Izquierdo, who is the mother of 3 children, directs the Alma y Huella Foundation, where she designs and implements models of community intervention for the empowerment of Arhuacas indigenous women through the cultivation of coffee, among other activities. At the same time, she has held different positions in municipal and provincial governments. At the moment she works for the Ministry of the Interior in the Directorate of Ethnic and Minority Affairs, working not only in favor of indigenous peoples, but also for the gypsies and other minorities in Colombia.