By Emérita Valdez, Rise Up Honduras Country Representative
In January 2020, we launched Rise Up’s Girls’ Voices Initiative cohort in Comayagua, Honduras with a sense of joy and hope. Twenty Honduran girls between the ages of eleven and eighteen, from mostly rural communities, and ten adult allies, from local partner organizations, came together to impact the lives of adolescent girls in Honduras through our one-week training. During the training, the girls strengthened their leadership and advocacy skills in order to develop effective advocacy strategies to advance girls’ rights, while the adult allies built their capacity to support girls’ leadership in their communities.
On the first day of the training, the girls were full of energy. They had high expectations and were committed to learning from Rise Up, so they could share their new knowledge with other girls in their communities. Each day the girls deepened their knowledge on advocacy and leadership and analyzed the problems that Honduran adolescent girls face. By connecting to the girls’ lived experiences and realities, the training allowed the girls to not only identify the problems that affect them most, including street harassment, forced migration, sexual abuse, psychological and physical violence, and lack of access to education, but also to begin to identify the political changes needed to solve these challenges. For example, the girls discussed how the lack of comprehensive sexual education increases teen pregnancy and sexual violence in their communities and identified the decision-makers in their communities who have the power and funds to mandate sex education in their schools.
Girls also learned about advocacy steps and strategies, engaging other adolescent girls in advocacy, and public speaking. The girls used problem trees to analyze the real problems they are facing, identify the specific political changes needed to solve these challenges, and develop proposals to effectively advocate for those changes. The proposals are creative and responsive to the girls’ own needs and clearly outline the changes the girls will demand from decision-makers in their communities.
Learning and having fun made the five-day training a fabulous experience. Each day the girls artistically expressed what they learned and showed their astonishment and gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this unique experience. As one seventeen-year-old girl said, “I not only learned, I made friends, and we are dreaming together. Now I know that I am not alone and that Honduras has extraordinary girls like me who are going to transform their realities.”
After the training, these 20 adolescent girls are going back to their communities and cities full of dreams and with a clear objective to advocate with decision-makers to make changes to improve life for them and the other adolescent girls in Honduras.
Read on for more reflections and to see photos from the training.
“I am really looking forward to changing the world and demonstrating how valuable girls and women are, that we can be ourselves and we belong to no one.” – Girl leader, 16
“The most important thing that I take home from this training is the knowledge I gained on how to change my city through political advocacy towards decision-makers.” – Girl leader, 18
“I hope many young people experience what we experienced this week.” – Girl leader, 16
“I learned about political advocacy, how to work as a team, and how to prepare an action plan for decision-makers.” – Girl leader, 11
“This workshop helped us learn how to stand up to a system that makes women vulnerable in all political and social areas and invited us to fight for girls and youth in our country, in a time of great repression and social instability.” – Girl leader, 16
“I learned from this experience that girls have the power and the great ability to teach us what their problems are and how those problems are affecting them.” – Adult ally, 30
Emérita implements and monitors our programs in Honduras, supports Rise Up Leaders from Honduras in their advocacy, and represents Rise Up in national and international spaces. She jointly facilitated the Girls’ Voices Initiative Training in Honduras with Rise Up’s Central America team: Guatemala Country Representative Veronica Burch, Guatemala Country Coordinator Juany Garcia, and Program Coordinator Patzia Martinez.