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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Getting Youth Ready for the Elections!

 As many of you know, March 11 2012, El Salvador will hold elections for senators and mayors.  These elections, held every 3 years, will be very important for CEIBA`s work because it determines WHICH party will hold the local government, which effects our work significantly.  We have been involved in several projects trying to increase youth participation in the elections, since the BIGGEST issues in the country right now is probably the high levels of violence.  The current and past governments responses to deal with the issues have been increasing police force, militarization, and harsher gang laws. Most recently, the Funes administration made the decision to name a military colonel as the head of the Civilian Police Force, in violation of the 1992 peace accords and constitution. See this post from Voices on the Border. This is not the approach CEIBA supports and promotes, and it is not the preferred method of dealing with the violence in the country according to the youth organizations we work with, or the communities we spend time in.

Youth will play an important part in these elections, and the youth vote could make the difference locally in the very tight elections race in Santiago Texacuangos.  The incumbents, ARENA, are sure they will return to office, while the FMLN is sure that the new right wing party, GANA will take enough of the right wing votes from ARENA to win.  ARENA won lasts elections by a margin of 1,200, so if GANA takes over 1,000 votes from the former ARENA supporters, the race will be close.

CEIBA has been getting youth ready for these elections, and will make their voice heard in the first ever debate in the history of Santiago Texacuangos, which will take place this Saturday, March 3rd in the Camilo Campos School at 9am. We are expecting nearly 300 people, including each of the 5 candidates for mayor (from the parties FMLN, GANA, CN, Esperanza, and ARENA), members of those parties, and 6 different youth groups from throughout the municipality. The town is abuzz with excitement at the first ever debate, and a chance to have real dialogue with candidates. While the focus of the debate is youth issues, the organized women will also be presenting their women`s platform, and other members of civil society will attend.

To get youth ready to the debate, and help them form good questions for candidates, Jonathan Velasquez, co-founder and long time volunteer of CEIBA is a lawyer, and has been giving workshops in communities about the Youth Law, Electoral Process, and doing participatory community diagnostics that a young person from each community will present to the candidates.
Until what age are you young? (answer from santa maria: in spirit one doesnt stop being young until he/she loses the iniciative to learn)
 One of the fundamental questions asked in each workshop is: what is the age of `youth`to which the correct legal answer according to the new salvadoran Youth Law is ages 15-29.
Young people in La Cuchilla brainstorming youth rights.
  Another question asked throughout the workshops was `What are the rights of youth?` Interesting responses included, the right to chose our governance; the right to not be robbed in the street; the right to life etc, each based on one`s own experience. Jonathan also explained the electoral process, and the new electoral reforms EL Salvador has enacted. The workshops ended with the youth constructing their local platform to present to the mayoral candidate this saturday, based on the problems and solutions for youth in their own communities.CEIBA has trained more than 100 youth in 5 communities, who will speak at the forum and analyze the youth platforms of each candidate.
The event will be covered by youth journalists CEIBA and CIPJES trained in the VOZZ project earlier this month, when 40 young people came to San Salvador from around the country Feb 10-12 for a jounrnalism bootcamp.  Youth were given video camaras as well as training in radio, interview techniques, foto journalism, and more ( see www.vozz.com.sv for more information, and to watch bilingual and local salvadoran election coverage from the youth`s perspective).  

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