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Reverence, Balance, Evolution and Healing: A follow-up gratitude letter to all those who have made Voice what it is

by Ishita Dutta, Voice Global Programme Manager


In December 2023, we announced the impending closure of the Voice programme in December 2024. While this end date has been ‘cast in stone’ from the start and there is much we are looking forward to as Voice teams in 2024, we are also understandably tentative about what is to come. Endings are always bittersweet and tend to come in a rush. Before we dive into the whirl of activities associated with sunsetting an 8-year-old programme, I am prompted to share a (hopefully) more vulnerable, gracious and grateful note thanking all those who have made the Voice programme what it is. In doing this, I am taking literal inspiration from the words of Willow Defebaugh


Similar yet distinct from wonder, emotions researcher Brené Brown describes reverence as “a deeper form of admiration or respect [that] is often combined with a sense of meaningful connection with something greater than ourselves.” 


As always, first and foremost, I would like to thank the rightsholders and grantee partners who are the reason Voice exists. We are because you are. Thank you for breathing life into the principle, “Nothing About Us, Without Us”. Thank you for keeping alive the dreams and visions of an inclusive, just and equal world. Thank you for the fortitude, determination and creativity to make those dreams and visions into a reality through your myriad initiatives, from the local to the global level. Thank you for providing us with honest feedback and suggestions which have helped the programme to respond better to what is asked for and needed. Thank you for trusting Voice to accompany you on the journey of implementing these initiatives. Thank you for linking and learning with Voice and with each other. Thank you for telling your stories and allowing Voice to share them with the world. Thank you for your continuing onward journeys, without Voice, which are sure to lead us all to the inclusive, just and equal world that we dream of.


Grantee partners, rightsholders and Voice representatives during the 2023 Indaba held in Cotonou, Benin


We must be committed to our own evolution… While those in power cling to the past, nature is an engine of change, teaching that anything that doesn’t adapt will eventually perish. 


While an 8-year project cycle is possibly not long enough to undergo full-fledged evolution, the journey of the Voice programme has been marked by transformative moments. Within a year of launching, we learned important lessons about the significance of language and digital accessibility, updating the grant application process to be more accessible. In 2018, we learned that we have to let go and allow linking and learning to take shape organically in each country, led by grantee partners and rightsholders needs. In 2019, following a positive mid-term review and a participatory process involving key stakeholders, Voice updated its theory of change to unequivocally put rightsholders at the center and demonstrate that social change is a complex, colourful and non-linear process.


We also welcomed a new Advisory Board of rightsholder representatives from Africa and Asia. In 2022, we started implementing some of the recommendations received from the grantee perception survey carried out the previous year, taking forward our commitment to pay further attention and challenge power dynamics that crop up in a granting relationship. The Voice final evaluation took place in 2023, alongside the 4th Voice Global Indaba, final grant approvals bringing onboard a cohort of 15 new grantee partners representing the LGBTI rights movements in a context of increasing criminalisation and repression of the movement, and the launch of a co-creation and consultation process looking into the future of Voice. Through all this, we learnt anew that the greatest strength binding grantee partners and Voice is our adaptability. Voice still has miles to go to meet grantee partners and rightsholders exactly where they are.  However, we value everything we have learnt that has gotten us this far.


A proposed topic during the 2019 Indaba Uncconferencing session
A proposed topic during the 2019 Indaba Uncconferencing session


healingOn the surface, we must mend the damage that colonization, corporate greed, government complicity, and decades-long public apathy have authored on this planet. And yet, these are all symptoms of a deeper wound: the separation between humans and nature. 


And to close, here are some collective intentions that I hope are helpful to all those who are reading this letter, as we journey further into 2024 and into the future… We will celebrate our humanness, and nurture the bonds, connections and solidarities we have created. We will (re)connect with and nourish the Earth that nourishes us. Against all odds, we will hold on to hope.



From the the Final Report of YGoal, Inc., Linking and Learning Facilitator, Voice in the Philippines
From the the Final Report of YGoal, Inc., Linking and Learning Facilitator, Voice in the Philippines


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