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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vozz El Salvador: Youth Cover 2012 Elections and Organize Local Forum

Check out our first youth project for 2012 and Donate Today via Paypal.  Project description below:

During the years 1980-1992 El Salvador suffered a civil war that resulted in more than 75,000 people dead, thousands wounded, and over one million who fled the country.  Years of instability and violence gave rise to problems that are still present in Salvadoran society today, including growing gang violence, economic inflation, and general social unrest. Nevertheless, a strong civil society and a growing network of nonprofits has helped the human rights movement in El Salvador and many, especially youth, remain hopeful and active in civil society. The mayoral election season is a pivotal moment for participation, and it is one sphere in which every Salvadorean is faced with the task of finding solutions for the challenges facing their country.

There is an evident need for a youth-driven election project focused on education and training, citizen first-hand reporting, interactive events for conversation-building, and collaboration with the local municipalities to create lasting ties of civic engagement and participation. Vozz, a name created by youth in Guatemala City’s crime-ridden Zone 1 to capture the spirit of having a voice or voz to their stories, will create opportunities for youth to be trained by local reporters and seasoned election trainers, to share their stories from their municipalities on election day, and to distribute those stories both to a central website and to local and global syndicating partners such as YouTube and Demotix.

 VOZZ is a citizen journalism training project which was implemented as a successful pilot project during Guatemala’s election in August 2011. More than forty trainers from 22 municipalities were trained in the age range of 16- 24 years old. Youth were taught the fundamentals of journalism and reporting, the use of reporting tools like cameras and cellphones, and the electoral process. The reporters returned to their communities, replicated these trainings and reported both during and after the elections. The project continues as an online space in English, Spanish and Kaqchikel  for Guatemalan youth to share their stories around local events, environment, information and news that impacts them.

This project will be launched in El Salvador as a second pilot test to coincide with the 2012 municipal elections. There will be three components to Vozz El Salvador:

        TRAINING OF TRAINERS We will focus on creating a training of trainers “bootcamp” program which will convene two youth from each of 20 municipalities and provide scholarships for them to attend two weekend trainings in San Salvador in February 2012. The first training will focus on the fundamentals of reporting, the electoral process in El Salvador and the use of multimedia tools for reporting safely and accurately.  The second training will focus on educating this same core team on three youth laws that could serve as tools to hold local governments accountable during the mayoral elections.
        A PUBLIC FORUM. A public forum will be held in Santiago Texacuangos where youth from youth-serving organizations will publicly interview local candidates for mayorships on issues concerning young voters. This forum will also livestreamed online so more people both nationally and abroad can view it. The semi-urban municipality where the forum will be held is located 30 minutes south of San Salvador, where CEIBA has worked to develop youth organizations in communities and to create partnerships with the local municipal government to help implement new laws to protect and empower youth.
        SOFTWARE PACKAGE AND CURRICULUM. An out-of-the-box easy to install open-source software package ready for online launching. This software package with language localization capacity will also be accompanied by a digital and printable curriculum that contains trainings focused on election coverage and participation. This electronic “Journalism and Political Participation Do-It-Yourself Election Guide” will be in both Spanish and English and available for nonprofits and civic groups across Latin America to use as an initial civic engagement tool and gateway to civic knowledge.

Increasingly, youth in the country are in crisis – unemployment is at an all time high,  hundreds migrate to the U.S. daily in search of work or fleeing violence, and gangs and drug trafficking disproportionately affect youth – the murder rate among young Salvadorans is 92 per 100,000 people. Thirty percent of youth in El Salvador 2009 last election exercised their right to vote. The factors that account for low youth voter turnout are misinformation and lack of voter education, as well as youth sentiment that political parties and leaders fail to represent their concerns or to provide them with opportunities to participate. Many youth voters are also not interested in voting because of the perceived lack of importance of the activity of voting. The mayoral elections to be held in March 2012 are an opportunity for young people to get involved at the most local level of political participation and to hold their future leaders accountable for the concerns and rights of young people.  

The issues of crime, gang violence, and drug trafficking has generated negative stigmas and stereotypes of youth in El Salvador and all of Central America. The Salvadoran government has perpetuated such stereotypes, passing harsher anti-gang laws or increasing militarization of the streets. Young people equipped with the tools to understand and digitally discuss the problems affecting youth will be powerful actors in public policy. Not only will trained youth be more confident to participate in their local communities, they will have the online skills and mentorship necessary to return to their own municipalities and replicate these spaces for story-telling and civic engagement, and to conduct trainings from the toolkits provided. By the end of the project, young people in this geographic region will connect with other youth globally and locally, will serve their communities by producing accurate information, will act as a watchdog in a fledgling democracy, and will amplify the space for freedom of expression by exercising their basic right to choose and share their stories.

This project will directly benefit more than 200 Salvadoran young adults ages 18-24 who live in 20 municipalities considered to be areas of social exclusion. Forty youth will be trained as the core group of citizen reporters to cover the 2012 Mayoral Elections, and 160 youth will be invited to participate in the Youth Forum in Santiago Texacuangos. The project has the potential to benefit hundreds more Salvadoran youth because it requires that the first youth trained return to their home municipalities and conduct their own training, in partnership with local youth organizations. In addition, Vozz will publish an open-source electronic “Journalism and Political Participation Bootcamp” curriculum in both Spanish and English, available for the benefit of thousands of NGOs and local government across Latin America so that they can apply our project to elections throughout the region.

Organizations: HablaCentro and CEIBA
CEIBA has been working on youth participation and violence prevention since February 2010. As part of a human rights commission on a national youth network, CEIBA actively participated in the creation of the Youth Policy (Politica de Juventud, passed March 2011) and the Youth Law ( Ley de Juventud, passed November 2011). CEIBA is also part of the local RAC (Red de Atencion Compartida) for Santiago Texacuangos which is responsible for helping the local government implement the LEPINA (Ley para Proteccion de la Ninez y Adolescencia. Law for the Protection of Children and Adolescents, passed January 2011). Lawyer Jonathan Velasquez, a founding member of CEIBA, is certified in LEPINA by the Salvadoran Supreme Court. Dany Portillo, another CEIBA founder, is currently the Director of Youth and Culture in the Secretary of Culture for the Salvadoran Government. CEIBA has the community context, experience with youth on the local level, appropriate insertion into national advocacy organizations, and ties to national and local government to undertake this kind of project.

HablaCentro has trained close to eight hundred people through work with nonprofits, civic groups, and other organizations since 2010. The organization has also created a community of 1,141 contributors, 9,027 articles, and more than 4,128  text message alerts. On average, HablaCentro serves 20,000-30,000 visits per month across all the 6 hubs located in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Venezuela. HablaCentro also created a number of strategic partnerships to form the foundation for real social change and impact. is a local mobile-driven network of regional citizen information websites in Latin America where contributions can be anonymous. Contributors, especially young people, from each country share and discuss information in various languages, including local indigenous languages. People use whatever means is available to them – computers, email and cellphones – to contribute and access the websites. A team of mostly volunteers share information and tools to participate and own the websites within each country. The core of the network is to provide a space for anyone to share their views or news reporting, and to train community groups and citizens about how to tell any story in such a way so that it has impact, relevance, timeliness, can be verified, and has geographic significance.

HablaCentro began as a pilot project, HablaGuate, in Guatemala in May 2009. When the prominent Guatemalan lawyer, Rodrigo Rosenberg, was murdered and a group of people requested a tool to be able to tell their stories from the ground. One month later HablaHonduras was created on the eve of President Manuel Zelaya's ousting in order to provide an alternative news outlet for the community reporting those events. Within a month the traffic reached 30,000 visits without any marketing efforts. One month later, HablaVenezuela was launched after a request from a core group of Venezuelans organizing against the governments educational cutbacks. Two months later, HablaCostaRica and HablaElSalvador were created. HablaCentro was formed as this growing network of news and information hubs with a legal entity in the United States. Co-founder Kara Andrade is now an Ashoka fellow strenghtening this network of community news and information websites by working locally with the teams that run them and providing training and technical support.

Hablacentro is partnering with a local nonprofit called Construyendo Espacios Integrales  para el Bienestar Ambiental (Ceiba), Constructing Integrated Spaces for Environmental Well-being, which was founded to respond to destruction caused by landslides as a result of Hurricane Ida in November 2009.  The organization was founded by Beth Tellman, on a Fulbright in El Salvador at the time, along with five Salvadorans, two of whom were from the affected region. While initially providing humanitarian aid to over 30,000 people in 30 communities, Ceiba focused the scope of its work to the social reconstruction of the most devastated communities in the municipality of Santiago Texacuangos, based on community diagnostics and Beth’s research on the keys to community resilience. 

Ceiba’s vision is to be a foundation that promotes sustainable community organization to manage the natural resources and social development of the municipality of Santiago Texacuangos.  Ceiba’s mission is to give community members the tools to organize themselves in order to generate: environmental consciousness, alternatives sources of income, food sovereignty, risk management, mental health, and gender equality. Ceiba is non-religious and non-political, and its board of directors includes an assembly of more than 20 local community leaders, volunteers, and students. Thus far, they have collaborated with the United Nations, the USA Military Civil Affairs Unit, and New York University, among others. Ceiba began its process to become a legal Salvadoran NGO in January 2011, expecting official status as a Foundation in early 2012.

Amount of budget requested and total cost of project or program :$13,905

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