Zaira Lainez Carrasco is the gender equality and social inclusion officer for the Youth Excel program. She is responsible for ensuring that the considerations of girls, young women, and marginalized groups are mainstreamed throughout program activities and for fostering youth-led program planning through a variety of assessments, outreach to targeted groups, and adaptive methodologies.
Before Youth Excel, Zaira served as the positive youth development specialist and political training specialist for the Proyecto Acción Transformadora project in Guatemala, which aimed to empower young leaders to participate in the political spaces of their communities and the country, and positively influence political decision-making processes to address the most pressing challenges. Under Zaira’s leadership, the project built a youth-led national network that reached approximately 2,000 youth. She also designed and coordinated a 12-module diploma for young leaders from diverse backgrounds across the country. In addition, she led the Network of Networks initiative, which coordinated 10 USAID projects in Guatemala that worked with their own youth networks to strengthen the sustainability of their work.
Prior to joining IREX, Zaira worked at a research institute of the Universidad Rafael Landívar in Guatemala, the Peace Building and Conflict Transformation Institute (INTRAPAZ), on topics including democracy, peacebuilding, social conflicts, and violence. She has also worked as a professor at the same university on the political and social sciences faculty. She contributed to research projects on political parties at the Association for Research and Social Studies. She served as a volunteer at the Instituto Guatemalteco de Educación Radiofónica (IGER) and is a columnist for Plaza Pública.
Zaira holds an MA in political and social studies from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico City and a BA in political science at Universidad Rafael Landívar.