Today, September 22, marks the launch of a three-day campaign called Speak. Speak is coordinated by Civicus, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation. The campaign begins with a day- of-silence followed by two days of events and actions at both international and national level, all to show solidarity with the shrinking civic space civil society and citizens are experiencing around the world.
The issue of civic space is at the heart of Voice and hence we welcomed the opportunity to join forces. You will have seen the pop-up banner when accessing our website with the following words:
Our voices are powerful. Our words can change the world.
But today we choose to be silent to help amplify the voices of those who have been silenced. Brave men and women, who have dared to speak out for a more just and sustainable future for all.
In doing so, we send a clear message to those who seek to attack freedoms and prevent dissent: silence one of us and you will silence us all, until our silence is deafening and our voices are louder than ever.
To find out more or join us, go to www.togetherwespeak.org/silence
As Voice continues to build the capacity of organisations and groups to influence policies and practices that affect the most marginalised and discriminated groups worldwide, the challenges around freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association will be key.
But Voice is also about telling a bigger story.
A story about people whose voices have never been heard to begin with. Because of who they are, because of who they represent or maybe simply because of who they want to be.
What about the story of the LGBTI community who in so many countries in Africa is criminalised and not able to be who they are including but not limited to register as an organisation?
What about ethnic minorities and indigenous people in so many countries in Asia whose land is being grabbed by multinational companies in pursuit of their rich natural resources?
And what about the story of people with mental and/or intellectual disabilities, often hidden from society?
As the family of Voice grantees continues to grow to help these groups find their voice and speak out, an introduction to one group of young people with Down Syndrome from Indonesia seems only appropriate.
Empowerment grantee “Let’s Speak Up!” guides teenagers with Down syndrome in Indonesia to be courageous when speaking up and expressing their opinions. Most of them can’t (or some not yet) speak properly. Some even can’t speak at all. Their language -thus far- is about smiles and love. When, during a workshop, expression images were shown to members of the group, they all chose the silhouette of people falling in love – which showed their feelings at that time. These teenagers are similar to other peers, they feel in love, they feel rejection, and romance.
And Voice is supporting them on this empowerment journey to find their voice so they can speak up and out for their rights, opinions and feelings.
This is also what civic space is about: unleashing new -thus far- hidden voices.
Let’s continue to speak together!