22 June 2015

The UNMaking of Hate: Young People win €20,000 to Combat Intolerance in United Colors of Benetton UNHate Foundation and UNAI Diversity Contest

Xenophobia.  Racism.  Sexism.  Intolerance.  Homophobia.  Discrimination.  Prejudice.  Every day, people around the world face exclusion and injustice based on their race, religion, gender, origin, sexual orientation and other characteristics, creating a world in which people are denied their rights and deprived of the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Ending hate and intolerance requires grassroots efforts that have a global impact, which is why the United Colors of Benetton’s UNHate Foundation and United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) joined forces to ask young people how they would address intolerance to create hate-free communities.

The 2015 United Colors of Benetton UNHate/UNAI Diversity Contest received more than 100 entries from 31 countries around the world, with innovative ideas and solutions for tackling everything from homophobia to racism, gender-based discrimination, homelessness, interethnic conflict, xenophobia and exclusion of persons with disabilities.

“This contest showcased the engagement of young people around the world and the innovation, energy and commitment they bring to personally crafted solutions that address some of the world’s most pressing issues,” said Ramu Damodaran, chief of United Nations Academic Impact.

After careful consideration from a panel of judges ten proposals were selected and the winning projects will each receive €20,000 from the United Colors of Benetton UNHate Foundation to help make their dream of ending intolerance in their community a reality. 

The selected projects will employ creative approaches to help address a wide range of discrimination and prejudice, including: facilitating access to education for indigenous women in southern India; promoting interfaith harmony in Pakistan; challenging homophobia in India and Mexico; providing a safe space for women in China to discuss difficult issues; resolving conflicts over access to water to decrease ethnic conflict in Burundi; encouraging greater acceptance of migrant populations in South Africa; promoting acceptance of marginalised groups in Mexico; promoting greater employment opportunities for Muslim women in Germany;  documenting the voices of female Mexican and Central American immigrants to the United States; and portraying the day to day lives and aspirations of Palestinians from diverse backgrounds.

One award recipient said that the United Colors of Benetton UNHate grant will help her pursue her vision of a world in which all people are treated with respect and dignity, while another winner said that working to end intolerance will create a future in which people can follow their dreams no matter who they are or where they are from.

The UNHate Foundation was founded in 2011 by the Benetton Group to build on the founding values of the company, including the promotion of dialogue and solidarity among people globally as well as the belief that individuals, particularly young people, can be the driving force in transforming society. 

Mariarosa Cutillo, manager of corporate social responsibility for the Benetton Group and President and CEO of the UNHate Foundation, says empowering youth is the key to making lasting change. “We at the United Colors of Benetton UNHate Foundation believe that intolerance and discrimination undermine economic and social development, and this has a devastating impact on young people.  This is why we support youth as change agents in their communities and leaders in the dialogue on diversity and inclusion to make real progress in the fight against hate.”

An event recognizing the winners was held at the United Nations in New York on Friday, 26 June 2015 from 11am to 12pm EST.  You can watch the webcast here.  

For more information on the United Colors of Benetton UNHate Foundation visit: http://unhate.benetton.com/foundation/

Follow United Nations Academic Impact on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ImpactUN and on Twitter at twitter.com/ImpactUN

2015 United Colors of Benetton UNHate/UNAI Diversity Contest Winners

  • Burundi: University of Peace and Reconciliation - Lwesso Fiston, Lwesso Jean-Paul, Noella Miburano, Harushimana Teddy, water and ethnic conflicts

This group of students from Burundi wants to increase harmony between ethnic groups who often clash over access to water by teaching water resource management and conflict resolution skills.

  • Canada: Royal Roads University - Landon Zeeman and Jennifer Farquharson,  empowering Palestinians to tell their own stories

These Canadian students, inspired by the successful photo journal Humans of New York, will develop a similar website, People of Palestine, through which Palestinians can tell their stories about their experiences, history, culture and ideas.

  • China: China Foreign Affairs University - Yang Jingchen, Xiong Ying, Hang Su, Zhu Jiao, safe spaces for women to discuss difficult issues  

This group of Chinese students will organize safe, confidential settings in which female students can speak anonymously about traumatic life experiences and break the silence that often surrounds mental health issues.

  • Germany: The New School - Lara-Zuzan Golesorkhi, employment opportunities for Muslim women

This German student will provide skills training for Muslim women in Germany, who often face discrimination in the employment sector, but also work with employers to increase their hiring and inclusion of Muslim women in the workplace.  

  • India: Ambedkar University - Mesha Murali, Rohan Sengupta, Shikhar Vyas, Vinitha Jayaprakasan, Sonam Grover, LGBT rights

These Ambedkar University students will carry out a gender and sexuality sensitization campaign at three universities in Delhi to confront sources of discrimination and challenge intolerant and non-affirming policies that impact students. 

  • India: MACFAST University -  Sanesh Varghese, Tiji Thomas, Angel George, M.S. Samuel, Pradeep Vazhatharamalayil, Shibu Itty Mathew, empowerment of indigenous women in India through education

This group of faculty members at MACFAST University seeks to empower young indigenous women by preparing them for university programs in fields such as medicine, nursing and engineering.    

  • Mexico: National Autonomous University of Mexico - Rosa Maria Ramirez de Garay, promoting understanding of discrimination faced by women, members of the LGBT community and indigenous peoples

This Mexican student will install multimedia booths in public places that will provide an immersive experience to show people what it feels like to face different forms of discrimination on a daily basis.

  • Mexico/United States: Columbia University and the National Autonomous University of Mexico - Atenea Rosado Viurques, Amanda Braga, Ana DinoRamos, Andrew Van Rompaey Peñagaricano, Axel BautistaPérez, Cristina GonzálezFitch, Kendra Strouf, Camila Ruiz Segovia, immigrant women's stories

This transnational group of students will document the experiences of Mexican and Central American women who immigrate to the United States to increase understanding of the many barriers and challenges they face as well as their contributions to society. 

  • Pakistan: Agnes Scott College - Varsha Thebo, Pakistan, increasing interfaith understanding

This Pakistani student seeks to promote harmony among Christians, Hindus and Muslims in Sindh Province in her native country by using texts from each religion to demonstrate that each faith stresses peace and harmony.

  • South Africa: Northwest College - Sebudisi Mafabatho, xenophobia

The project proposed by this South African student will shed light on the plight of migrants in South Africa through a series of debates and discussions with the purpose of creating awareness and improving the treatment of migrants throughout the world.