The Anatomy of Programming: How We Do What We Do
Inter Pares works with people in some of the most difficult and complex national contexts in the world. We are witnesses and companions to our friends and colleagues experiencing conflict, oppression and marginalization. In our work, we become familiar with regional and international political and socio-economic developments, and their implications at the local level. We do this through the depth and intimacy of our relationships with counterparts. We discuss, analyze and plan work together. We act, lobby, raise funds, travel, write, assess, learn and listen. Our program relationships are web-like, with new possibilities emerging at each point where these relationships intersect.
At the very centre of this web is our relationship with counterpart organizations. Though these relationships are institutional, they are also relationships among people - people who have built institutions based on social justice values that we share, people of integrity,courage and generosity who live remarkable lives. We hold them in high regard, as they do us. And from this respect comes both support and critical challenge. These relationships are reciprocal. We support each other politically and programmatically.
The Burma-Guatemala Women's Exchange described in this Bulletin was built upon our long-term relationships with the Burma Relief Centre in Thailand and with Project Counselling Service in Latin America where we support efforts to assist refugees and displaced people.
The impact of the Burma-Guatemala Women's Exchange is an example of the web of our work. The exchange strengthened relationships with the Women's League of Burma and its members, while it further consolidated our relationships with returned women's organizations in Guatemala. Most importantly, it built relationships among these groups to offer experiences and learning that Inter Pares could never provide in isolation. Bringing these organizations together extended the historical collaboration we had done with each group independently, and is an example of the unique "value" that Inter Pares brings to the work.
It has been Inter Pares' experience that the most effective programs are those based on long-term engagement, extensive consultation with counterparts, mutual commitment, and investment in building programming from the ground up in a way that is natural, organic and often open-ended.
Over the years, we have recognized parallels in the experiences of Burmese women, who were discussing a return to Burma in the context of a secure political settlement, and that of Guatemalan women, who had already undertaken their own return from Mexico to Guatemala. This discussion grew and developed with the involvement of Guatemalan and Burmese colleagues, and became the exchange described in this Bulletin. Such an initiative was only possible because of our methodology, which stresses collective discussion and analysis of programming, as well as the centrality and quality of our relationships with counterparts.
The Burma-Guatemala exchange helped create a space where women could share political strategies and advice, personal emotions and honest perspectives. Ana, one of the Guatemalan women, said that talking about her experiences was both "painful and important". However, she wanted to speak out because "we went to Mexico for 15 years. We learned and grew ...it is important that others can apply this experience to their own struggles and context."
That the exchange allowed women to speak about difficult experiences is a testament to the trust that was built through the exchange process.
The experience of women sharing their political aspirations and personal stories was powerful. It is intensely moving to witness the courage of women who, despite terrible histories and horrific experiences, demonstrate resilience, optimism and strength and continue to learn from these experiences. It changed the women who participated - Burmese, Guatemalan and Canadian. Being part of this work also influenced Inter Pares as an institution. It taught us much and helped build our collective experience as social justice activists, practically and spiritually, in common cause with our colleagues around the world.
In 1954, the democratically elected government of Guatemala was overthrown in a military coup. Successive military governments waged an internal armed conflict with insurgent groups, until peace accords were signed in 1996. Guatemala has 23 different ethnic groups, 21 of whom are Mayan in origin, representing 60 per cent of the approximately 12 million inhabitants. In 1992, Rigoberta Menchú won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in defense of the rights of the indigenous population. During four decades of war, over 200,000 people were killed, 1.5 million were internally displaced, and over 200,000 went into exile in Mexico. Thousands more sought refuge in neighbouring countries as well as farther afield. Inter Pares and our operational counterpart, Project Counselling Service, began supporting refugee organizations in Mexico in the 1980s, and accompanied them in their return to Guatemala during the 1990s. We continue to support their challenging reintegration into Guatemalan society.
|Reviewed June 1, 2004||Publishing Policies|