To define development is virtually impossible because the notion itself umbrellas such diverse concepts. The work our team are doing with local organisatio Jóvenes Liderando Cambios (JLC) and Progressio focuses on People Powered Development, however the more time I spend here in Honduras volunteering it has become more apparent that we are providing People Powered EMPOWERMENT. By focusing on women and children, the two most marginalised groups, we have provided a means for change by teaching skills and illustrating an alternative approach for the present and possible future. The work we have been doing does not have an immediate or visible impact, but rather small changes which can lead to greater benefit.
Although in Honduras children are expected to attend school until they are 13 or 14 years old, it is not always feasible for those in rural communities where their commitments lie with working on the family’s land. The workshops we are providing not only give a framework for business and enterprise but more significantly we teach skills on how to think independently. As well as encouraging them to take on roles they may feel inadequate to fill such as leaders and speaking in public.
For the women of the community it is very different, because with age comes structure, familiarity and routine. To break that is a much harder challenge. When we arrived at the beginning of our placement the women’s football project had already been successfully implemented and it was important to continue this. Without being there when the project began it is difficult to gain a true understanding of the importance of this. It is not the football itself but rather what it represents… firstly, with football primarily being a male orientated sport, when women take part it illustrates an element of equality. Secondly it gives women a place to exercise their rights to meet and engage with other people. Finally, it is a great way for JLC to gain the trust of the women by returning each week, teaching them new skills and engaging with them as individuals.
In addition to the football project, we decided to initiate a group solely for women, with the aim of discussing topics such as rights and opportunities and also providing a safe place for them away from their duties at home. Many would not have been able to attend due to such commitments so to overcome this minor barrier we enabled the women to bring their children with them.
These workshops are intended to give women the opportunity to vent problems which they may have in their day to day lives, such as finding money for food, caring for their children and other situations which make them feel frustrated with no means to speak and express these issues. The workshops are a place where the women can discuss their issues as well as realise and impart their different skills and knowledge.
The initial turn out in Belen was incredible and as the weeks went by they continued to return. We taught the women skills in being more creative, and about their rights as humans and as women. In Manazapa, when highlighting the different roles and stereotypes for men and for women a group discussion began. It was interesting to discover that many of the women had only about three years of formal education and many could not read or write. Despite this they all expressed knowledgeable opinions and ideas, sometimes contradicting the norm with regards to various political and social issues. They have the ideas but need a place to be nurtured, and these workshops hopefully fulfill that need.
As illustrated previously, the change in the way these people are living their lives is very small however by imparting knowledge and giving them a means to change, demonstrates the notion of empowerment. In my opinion empowerment is just as important an element, under the umbrella of development, as any other.
By Progressio ICS volunteers, based in La Esperanza