“Next month we will be organizing all the youth of the municipality and we will march to the town hall and demand our rights. They will listen to us.” A powerful statement made by a 15-girl who is one of the young people in Honduras, in a village where many have left in fear of violence. She is part of a group of strong community leaders, often women, who are fighting not only for their rights but also for their lives.
Through our Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme we support civil society organisations (CSOs) in strengthening their capacities and getting the voice of communities heard by national governments and local authorities. In Honduras, we recently held the third capacity development workshop to further build the skills and network of CSOs. Several meetings with external stakeholders were held, and the sessions on leadership were enthusiastically received. One of the highlights of the workshop was a dynamic session led by Acerta-communicaciones, a consultancy firm specialized in advocacy. Their analysis showed that the level of advocacy strategies, plans and actions differs per CSO. Follow-up training with the V4CP programme will therefore focus on the identified needs and improvements, tailored to the individual CSOs.
Ms. Desiree Hagenaars, First Secretary of the Netherlands Embassy, was present during part of the workshop and also attended a number of key external meetings. In a meeting with the EU and FAO regarding the development of Food & Nutrition Security policies in Honduras, Ms. Hagenaars and other participants ensured the inclusion and participation of the CSOs in meetings and policy briefs. The participants working on Energy met with the Ministers for the Environment, who agreed to incorporate the V4CP CSOs and their viewpoints in national policy debates through so-called Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).
The space for civil society and the opportunity to make community voices heard is decreasing. Various areas in Honduras see rapidly increasing corruption, narco-trafficking, murders, abductions, and emigration to the US. Towns and villages have emptied due to people leaving to find work elsewhere and for fear of violence. At the same time, many remain and choose to fight for their rights and livelihoods - organising themselves in voluntary groups and becoming effective community actors.
One of the V4CP CSOs, the Asociación de organismos no gubernamentales (ASANOG) took us to a “Green Community”, an isolated village where people are putting in a strong effort to make the community sustainable and environmentally friendly. This village is an inspiring example of community-based advocacy leading to change at community level. The representatives talked about numerous political efforts to increase investment in conservation, and the prevention of slash-and-burn agriculture through better law enforcement. With a number of similar villages, they form the backbone of ASANOG’s national advocacy for sustainable development.
With another CSO, Centro de Desarrollo Humano (CDH), we visited the coastal areas of Northern Honduras, zones that have been particularly hit by the emergence of narco-trafficing and emigration. Many people left as a result, but even so many people still remain, choosing to fight for their rights and livelihoods. Strong community leaders, often women, have taken control of their lives and communities, organizing themselves in voluntary groups and loose, but effective community groups. An impressive meeting with village women showed their long-term commitment to improving their lives and gaining access to government services and budgets. Similarly, a meeting with the local youth group showed the immense passion with which the people of this area are willing to stand up and fight against the injustices that they encounter. The speech of the 15-year old girl, speaking out strongly in a village suffering from rising crime and emigration, was most impressive. It was a moment of recognition that programmes such as V4CP can support these communities by strengthening their voices so as to raise their concerns at a national and international level.