GLL, Winter 2016

GLL, Winter 2016

For many of us freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association are universal values. However, in many parts of the world censorship, repression and surveillance  are a constant threat to the exercise of these rights, and Atlas Corps and the host organizations working with them know that.

Citizens around the world want to access to information, not of any kind, but quality information and from independent sources. They want to speak up for their believes, hopes and dreams, and for over 10 years Atlas Corps has helped make this a reality. Through my Fellowship, I have met incredible leaders who have faced restrictions, but that have managed to overcome to tell their story and fight for their cause. One example is Adam from Egypt, a talented journalist who changed his career as physicist to write about the Egyptian revolution. Another example are Kaltuma Vanessa and Tito Justin from South Sudan, who struggle to inform their nationals about the situation in South Sudan and who report to promote peace.

Advocates like us, that promote different social and political causes, need spaces and opportunities not just to inspire, but also to be inspired by other talented and dedicated leaders, as my fellow fellows have done with me. For that reason and because of this experience, today more than ever I firmly believe that civil society needs to work together accross borders, and the Atlas Corps Fellowship allow leaders from countries like South Sudan, Bangladesh, Palestine, Russia, China, Egypt, Colombia, where I am from, and more than 70 countries to learn from each other, and create a network to share best practices and lessons learned based on our our experience as a civil society leaders.

Also, in my case, I was fortunate to be placed at Internews, an incredible organization. In Internews we are doing an important effort to train journalist and civil society activists all over the over, particulary in Latin American and The Caribbean, to provide them with the skills and tools in digital and physical security, so they can communicate securely with their sources and have the means to deliver quality and independent information that will inspire and engage the citizens to promote changes they need. Internews has been working in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.

This allows me to conclude that civil society leaders need to receive training opportunities to strengthen our advocacy skills and develop new ones, we need to harness our networks and engage more people in the promotion of freedom of expression, and we also need to use ICT and social media to amplify our voices. Information has the power to change and save lifes, and local leaders are empowered and have the secure means to share information and make it accesible to all, then we will help to facilitate the conditions to promote a vibrant civil society ecosystem, a central pilar of a stable democracy. The Fellowship Atlas Corps provides us with these training and skills, and opens the door to a large network of leaders in all social, economic and political fields, so I hope these 10 years are only the beginning of a long path that will help young leaders, like me, to find their voices, to shape their ideas to build a better world, and strengthen the civil society of more and more countries through cultural exchange and learning from best practices of different organizations in the United States.

Cheers to 10 years more!