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Letter from Marinke

Leaving no one behind, only the year 2017

During a recent debate in India a transgender woman asked the question how she could be accepted by society following years of rejection, stigmatisation and discrimination. She posed this question to no other person than the former US president Obama.

“You have started it right now by the way you are questioning me. Change begins with finding your voice and to be able to articulate your views and your experiences, to tell your story, and that is true of any group that is marginalised and stigmatised,” Obama responded. “Finding that voice and being able to tell a story so that the perceptions that somehow you are different are broken down because people start recognising their own experiences in you. Seeing your own humanity in others and vice versa – that moment of recognition is the basis in which you begin to build political movements and alliances.”

The above words are anchored in Voice’s Theory of Change and 2017 has seen a great start for over 60 grantees to launch their projects. From small Empowerment grants in Indonesia and Mali to help find a voice for young people with intellectual disabilities (especially Down syndrome) through art, creativity and poetry slam. In both countries these projects are groundbreaking in many ways, breaking down all sorts of perceptions and stereotypes.

Art and culture play a crucial role in Voice especially in countries where civic space is severely restricted. Like in Cambodia where Phare Circus offers performances in the slum areas, training youngsters from these same slums to perform to show inclusion in action. And in Laos Voice will be supporting a film festival on inclusion.

Access to land for local communities and especially indigenous people continue to be critical issues in the Philippines and Uganda where extractive companies are ruining livelihoods and the environment. Through Influencing grants, Bantay Kita and Global Rights Alert are carrying out lobby and advocacy to change policies and practices.

And people with Albinism in Tanzania and Mali are fighting for their right to be heard, seen, protected and included.  In one way quite a similar fight (yet in many other ways not) as the story and desires of the LGBTI community in Laos, Cambodia en Kenya whose civic space is even more rapidly shrinking compared to other groups.

As for the way of working of the Voice teams themselves: we organised three regional workshops on inclusive facilitation in Laos, Kenya and Niger to ensure that our own work and approach is as inclusive as possible. And continue to work on amplifying the voices of the grantees through our website and Facebook.

As we leave behind the year 2017, Voice is truly trying to include as many diverse voices as possible in our effort to leave no one behind. In 2018 we will aim to reach higher with our first Learning Indaba; I-Cube on 18 January, starting the Linking and Learning activities at national level and launching regional empowerment grants (up to Euro 75,000) as one of the responses to shrinking civic space.

Thank you to all for your support, feedback, commitment and passion as we unleash many new voices.

Happy holidays and here is to a great 2018.

On behalf of Voice,

Marinke van Riet

Whistleblower

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