Voices is currently engaged in a wide variety of activities, as you’ll read about below. We focus especially on building local capacity and increasing access to information while also providing a limited amount of small grants to our Salvadoran partners. As an accompaniment organization our activities are driven only by the immediate and long-term needs identified by our partner communities. →
→ Supplementing Education
→ Youth Leadership Development
→ Empowerment of Women & Girls
→ Environmental Justice
→ Historical Memory
Grassroots Resource Center
Community leaders in Usulután and the mountains of northern Morazán are good educators, farmers and fishermen, but too often they lack the organizational capacity, professional skills, and access to information needed to further their communities’ priorities, especially during complex and often closed-door policy debates. In order to build local capacities and improve access to information, Voices’ created the Grassroots Resource Center, which offers two programs – the Civil Society Training Program and the Research Institute.
The Civil Society Training Program has offered leaders and residents in Usulután, Morazán, and elsewhere workshops and trainings on a variety of topics related to project development and management, advocacy, communications, and more. In addition to serving our partner communities, larger national organizations such as MOVIAC, CESTA, UES, and others have asked Voices staff to lead workshops for their communities.
Voices’ Research Institute provides communities with information and analysis about the issues that affect them most. We have written reports and fact sheets, and organized workshops about issues such as plans to develop tourism in the Jiquilisco Bay, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Public-Private Partnership Law, the government-run Agricultural Package Program and most recently Large-scale Sugarcane Production.
Supporting Formal Education
Voices has always considered access to quality education as a catalyst in the development of communities. Voices’ founders themselves were present in the refugee camps as displaced, illiterate refugees collectively used popular education to reverse those literacy rates almost fully in those 9 years. Voices has since worked closely with some of the most rural and poorest communities to provide educational opportunities from toddlers to young adults.
Our current educational initiatives focus on our communities in the Bajo Lempa, that have in recent years became so racked by the increase in gang recruitment and violence, that kids or entire families have decided to stop going to school or flee the country. Another obstacle comes from the state institutions in charge of ensuring this right to education, which have been incapable of providing an appropriate response to the wave of violence, and have continuously failed to provide the infrastructure, resources and even salaries necessary to function. To address these needs Voices began providing safe and reliable school transport, essential educational materials, healthy school meals and even paying teachers’ salaries to supplement the deficiencies. We have even brought in educational experts to work with local educators and have facilitated a series of parent-focused workshops.
Read about our educational program L.E.E.R.
Youth Leadership Development
Voices has had the opportunity of supporting a number of youth-led groups in three regions of the country. These groups work using music, dance, theatre, civil service, artistry, and direct action to develop and promote leadership within the youth sector. Despite their different approaches, these groups work with their peers and the rest of the community to create healthy alternatives to delinquency and migration via the promotion of self-reliance and self-esteem. Another common denominator of these groups is that the youth themselves are the children of adult community leaders who learned their own collective strength and potential either in exile or in conflict when they were young.
Voices has proudly supported these groups by providing organizational building workshops and financial support to their many activities, seminars, camps, anniversaries and centers, and even exchanges between groups of Salvadoran and North American youth. Not only do they work within their own municipalities, some groups also travel to more isolated towns to provide organized recreational activities and even medical brigades. Each group understands the importance of local civic participation and has encouraged their members to be engaged.
Empowering Women and Girls
El Salvador has one of the highest rates of gender based violence and teenage pregnancy in the western hemisphere and historically speaking, women in Latin America have been sidelined when it comes to matters of a societal and economic significance. Empowering women and girls and achieving gender equality are crucial to creating inclusive, open and prosperous societies, which is why Voices is committed to the agenda of advancing gender equality, the empowerment, promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls in El Salvador.
We contribute to this agenda by creating opportunities for dialogue to influence policies that benefit women and girls, by working with local partners, activists and civil society organizations to promote access and opportunity for women and girls and by building the skills and confidence of women and girls to achieve their potential and have more influence over decisions that affect their lives. While there is much work to be done, gender gaps in education, access to health services, labor force participation and political engagement have narrowed, closed and sometimes even reversed direction.
Voices’ aim is to bring women closer to their ideal of autonomy and fulfillment: a mission that is underpinned by a belief that women are a major driver of positive social change. We currently support the Women’s Network in Morazán by providing them with capacity building workshops and financial support for their meeting and training space.
Latin America’s popular movements fuse environmental dimensions into community struggles for social justice, mainly as a means to access and control nature.
Our communities, like many other rural and poor communities throughout El Salvador, likely live with industrial pollution concentrated in or near their neighborhoods leading to poor environmental quality. This puts them at higher risk for kidney disease, asthma, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, cancer, and birth defects. And those same communities tend to be stressed by poverty, unemployment, and inadequate access to health care or healthful food choices.
Voices and its partners work together to create awareness around the many environmental threats that communities face and when necessary we accompany the affected residents as they pressure the actors proliferating the problems. We do so with several audiences in mind. The first is our partner communities that suffer the effects of burning fields, contamination of agrochemicals, loss of biodiversity, and other devastating impacts. A second audience is the government officials that have the power to regulate the industry, to ensure they understand the depths of the issues. A third audience is members of the international community who are concerned with issues related to El Salvador, climate change, food sovereignty, environmental justice, and other topics.
Voices has always collaborated with our communities Segundo Montes, Octavio Ortiz and Amando Lopez when they host the yearly anniversaries commemorating the repatriation of their respective communities. We have also participated in their events to commemorate the martyred Jesuit priests after whom each community was named.
These efforts to preserve their history and culture are driven by a desire to help today’s youth understand their parents’ and grandparents’ struggle for justice in hopes that they won’t migrate to the U.S. or join one of El Salvador’s notorious street gangs. In 2014, Voices’ staff spent a year helping the Pastoral Team of Ciudad Segundo Montes conduct an extensive historical memory project through collective and individual work. Similarly, Voices also plans to assist Amando Lopez, and ALGES to organize their own historical memory project, a process that will certainly overlap with the projects in CSM.
We are also currently in the process of digitizing our own archives from the 1980s and 1990s, because we believe these hundreds of photographs and documents will help our partners tell their stories.