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Leaving no one behind, but the year 2018!

I recently watched Nanette, a stand-up comedy show written and performed by Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby. The show includes social commentary on inclusion with a special focus on LGBTI issues. It is a powerful and moving story of standing up against discrimination in general and gender-based violence in particular.  I was especially struck by the following words.

“My story has value. To be rendered powerless does not destroy your humanity. Your resilience is your humanity. The only people who lose their humanity are those who believe they have the right to render another human being powerless. They are the weak.

To yield and not break is incredible strength. I want my story heard just as I would like to hear stories from others. Not to be able to blame, but instead to feel connected, to feel less alone. Because diversity is strength, Difference is a teacher. Fear difference and you learn nothing.“

Wow, was my immediate reaction, this is precisely what Voice sets out to do. For us, every story, and every voice has value. Diversity is Voice’s strength and through our Linking and Learning “teacher” we aim to learn as well as embrace difference in order to celebrate inclusion.

What has 2018 taught us?

The year has taught us that Linking and Learning takes place in many different forms and shapes. While Voice in Indonesia had its first learning camp in April, in the Philippines, the first summit was organised in August where grantees were trained on the importance of strategic communications.  And as we speak the next Linking and Learning event takes place in Cambodia! We now have eight Linking and Learning facilitators (click grantees tab to see them all) covering all Voice focus countries. The facilitators’ role is to bring the grantees together to learn from and with each other and other stakeholders. In most countries, launches have been organised. In fact, the facilitators themselves will soon come together face-to-face during a meeting preceding the next I-Cube or Inclusion Innovation Indaba, planned for January 2019, in Nairobi.

But obviously, and more importantly, linking and learning also takes place outside of meetings!  For example, when the founder of Indonesian empowerment grantee YAPESDI, Dewi S. Tjakrawinata, was invited to present a monologue about women with disabilities facing violence and sexual abuse. She felt honoured but also felt as a non-disabled body it was not her place to present them. So she reached out to Siti Rodiah a young deaf activist, associated with Pamflet, a youth deaf movement and fellow empowerment grantee and the result can be seen in a powerful video. This is the power of Linking and Learning, providing opportunities to different groups to address the intersectional nature of discrimination and marginalisation.

From the close to 200 grantees, we are also slowly but surely hearing the voices of interesting (sub-)constituencies, emerging from within and across the five target groups such as domestic workers in Tanzania, Cambodia and Mali and people with mental and intellectual disabilities in Mali, Cambodia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Laos and Kenya.

Another example are organisations representing people with albinism which have found their way to Voice in Mali, Uganda and Tanzania.  We shared numerous times the sad story of Ramata Diarra, the five-year old albino girl who was murdered in rural Mali in the month preceding the presidential elections.  It resulted in a joint campaign by all Voice grantees in Mali and a song made by Agoratoire.  In November the joint campaign resulted in a pro-bono concert by Salif Keita, the famous West African singer in Fana where Ramata came from. It showed how unusual alliances can lead to great things and a bigger impact. To top it off, this story made its way into the flagship development cooperation report that OECD published in December 2018!  

Art and culture continue to play a crucial role in Voice especially in countries where civic space is severely restricted. Like in Laos -where Civicus rates the space as closed- Voice is supporting the Luang Prubang film festival to document inclusion through the eyes of the target groups themselves. It is important to note that a lot of the stories take an intersectional approach, such as the story of Ey, a trans-man with disabilities.   Plus in another example to celebrate inclusion, Partos the Spindle collaborated with Voice to launch the NOW-Us! Awards as part of the annual Innovation Festival that Partos organises.

Civic space remains an issue of growing concern which we have written about on several occasions. We devoted our VoiceMail of November to the Together We Speak campaign showcasing how the Voice grantees are navigating the challenges including an overall perspective of civic space within the five target groups.

Plus one influencing grantee from the Philippines was so bold to share how they resolved an internal corruption case, what they learned from it and what measures they took in order to minimise future risks.  After all, we are all human and being honest and modest is also part of the Voice DNA!

And we continue to amplify the voices of the grantees through our website, @voicetweetz, Instagram and Facebook with our decentralised Communications Hub in place in Kenya.

As we leave behind the year 2018, Voice is half-way in its five-year life cycle. We learned some important early lessons into which the Mid-Term Review -currently carried out- will take a deeper dive. In 2019, we aim for greater amplification, -for example by trying out pod casts- organising knowledge exchanges, allocating the final Euro 14 million to supporting great projects and take our Linking and Learning component to greater heights! So do watch this space……

But for now, our gratitude and thanks goes to all of you whose voices and stories have value and deserve to be heard.  #Leavenoonebehind remains our motto, as diversity is a reality, but inclusion is a choice.

Happy holidays for those who celebrate and here is to a voice-rich 2019!

On behalf of Voice,

Marinke van Riet

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