By José Ramón López, staff at Youth for Honduras
From October 8th-18th I had the amazing opportunity to represent Youth for Honduras in the city Vijayawada in India. Here, I met with our new partners in Step up for Rights of Females (SURF).
The SURF collaboration is an initiative to fight for gender equality and less discrimination against women around the world. It was wonderful to gather on this topic with people from four different parts of the world: Lithuania, Senegal, India, and Honduras. The purpose of our meeting in India was to receive training on women’s rights and women’s empowerment and equally inspire and exchange ideas.
Our youth in Youth for Honduras are facing many challenges in the Honduran society, but through the inspirational workshops with SURF we now have better opportunities to support our young women and encourage them to make their way in life.
Personally, I had never imagined to go on such a long trip in my life to a place with such a different culture, food, religion, environment and language. It was challenging, yet very exciting because I learned a lot, met new friends, and brought back home new reflections and conclusions.
Training in an international setting
There are especially three things from our training sessions that got my attention and made me reflect.
First and foremost, we went through some international laws on women´s rights that are created to protect women from violence and some types of discriminations that they can suffer both at home, at their jobs, or in the society. In comparison to for example India, Honduras has developed in a very positive way on this matter, but we are still facing severe problems such as femicide and machismo.
Secondly, we were introduced to video materials about the 17 sustainable development goals that the UN has defined. We saw some cases in African and Asian countries where UN strategies and approaches regarding women’s empowerment have been carried out with success. The main focus was to make sure that the local communities depend on themselves and not on external help. I was very inspired to imitate this in Honduras.
Finally, in teams depending on our nationalities we created smaller projects in order to begin the process of women’s empowerment in our communities. In the Honduras team we began planning workshops for women in the area of Siguatepeque who cultivate coffee. It was interesting to hear about the other teams’ projects too because in some cases we have very different necessities.
I really enjoyed getting to know people from different cultural backgrounds and watch our differences. The people from Lithuania were very kind and friendly. Despite their young age they knew what they were doing and were smart people. The Senegalese were very friendly and funny and I talked a lot with them about our lives, cultures, and traditions. The Indians were very quiet people but they were very hospitable.
However, among us existed something much more important to mention, something that joined us despite our four different identities: The love and will to serve and help others. It was an amazing experience to be united on these values!
Walking and driving through the streets of Vijayawada was an impressive experience. I first and foremost noticed what I would call disorder: noisy busses, motorbikes and small taxis trying to find their way through slowly moving people in a place which was both a crossroad and a marketplace. And no traffic lights guided us safely through the chaos!
The Indian culture left a huge impact on me, especially concerning religious matters. Most Indians are Hindus, but you can also find for example Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and various minor religious groups. In general, Indians were not afraid to show their religiosity everywhere anytime. I saw people with different religions worshipping each their god in the same place. Also, in their businesses and working places people paused their daily activities to turn to their deity.
One night at the hotel where we stayed, a Hindu couple got married. As foreigners we were immediately invited to join their wedding party. I even had the joyful experience of becoming a witness at the wedding ceremony! Indian wedding parties are much more dancing than ours. The sweet scent of incense floated everywhere and flowers decorated every corner of the scenery. However, to my surprise the couple in question did not show much affection towards each other.
We were also given the fantastic opportunity to visit local children’s projects and share a moment with the wonderful children there. One of the projects was an orphanage and school for blind children and here we did some sport activities. Another place was a refugium for trafficked girls. Here we also made activities to bring joy to the youngsters.
I feel so blessed to have seen, smelled, and tasted another part of our planet. Although the tasting part of it put me in many dilemmas (which I solved in the American food section of the super market).
And I feel so proud to have represented Honduras and Youth for Honduras in a faraway country like India on such important matters as women’s rights and empowerment. I really hope this relatively short meeting in India can create huge things and make a difference for the women of different countries who need it the most!