“My Heart is with this Program” – Rise Up Leaders Gather in Central America

By Rise Up’s Program Manager Claudia Romeu

Last month, Rise Up hosted in-country convenings for our Latin American network of Guatemala and Honduras Fellows. Bringing together Rise Up leaders from all previous cohorts since 2009 across the two countries, Rise Up’s leadership and knowledge-sharing convenings strengthen the advocacy of Fellows and foster new alliances and strategic opportunities for them to work together.

Rise Up’s Program Manager Claudia Romeu reflected on her inspiring experience in Honduras with the Fellows and gives us a look into the convening…

It was incredibly exciting to reconnect with the Honduras Fellows, and to meet some of the grantees I hadn’t had a chance to meet before. I was blown away by the very first activity we did.

We went around the room so everyone could introduce themselves, and right away many of them shared how Rise Up has greatly contributed to their professional development.

Several of the Fellows mentioned how the leadership training launched them into advocacy, and how incredibly valuable it was to them. Many described how after the training they began to re-strategize the ways they engage adolescent girls, and how they now ensure that girls are at the center of their programming and are given an opportunity to make decisions in important spaces.

I was humbled to hear how many times Rise Up was given thanks for investing, believing in, and supporting them throughout all these years. Their words were powerful.

“[Rise Up] has transformed many of us.”

“My heart is with this program. Since the beginning, it hasn’t let us go.”

“This program has created spaces to change the lives of girls.”

The convening began with a knowledge-sharing session led by Rise Up’s Country Representative Emerita Valdez, titled “We Are All Experts.” The Fellows first identified what knowledge or skills they are experts in and what they would each like to learn more about.  They then created discussion spaces to identify and connect with other Fellows who could help them with their learning or skills development in those identified areas. As part of this rich mentoring exercise, the Fellows also shared major successes and lessons learned.

Next, Vanesa Siliezar, our former Country Representative, and Luis Velazquez, our 2016 Fellow, led a session on the local context and situation of adolescent girls in Honduras. Fellows came together to collectively analyze the current challenges that girls face in education, health, violence, marriage, and opportunity. They also assessed challenges and opportunities in their work as girl activists.

After lunch, we enjoyed a fantastic panel led by Fellows Anabel Hernández (Comisión Ciudadana de Mujeres Solidarias), Keyla Canales(Organization for Youth Empowerment), Viena Avila(Asociación Feminista Trans), and invited guest Ana Ruth Garcia (Somos Muchas).

The day included a quick and interesting session on “Social Media for Change” led by me! The Fellows were very interested in the session and reported to have found it very valuable. The presentation was focused on tips for making social media pages impactful and for drawing in followers.

During the last session, the group was divided into smaller sections by geographical location, and Fellows identified concrete follow-up actions to the meeting. Many of them made commitments to identify areas they need to still strengthen, to train others in areas in which they have skills and expertise, and to plan tangible actions to connect with other Fellows and organizations in the following weeks.

Overall, the day was a great success. The Fellows collectively asked us for more opportunities for experience sharing and continued leadership development. We heard an overwhelming “Let’s do this again – and let’s meet for at least two days!” The time together was indeed short, but rich in opportunities for mutual learning!