My Favourite Social Justice Organization and Their Work to Improve Public Education in the Americas
In 2007, I was on my way back to Canada after a year of living in Spain. I wanted to find a way to bring together my passions for Spanish, education, and social justice and I thought that working with a non-profit organization doing work in Latin America would be perfect. But I didn’t want to do typical charity work – I wanted to be involved with an organization that worked in collaboration with partners to address systemic injustices to affect long term change. I was most pleasantly surprised when my first Google search turned up just that: CoDevelopment Canada.
The Wonderful Work of CoDev
CoDevelopment Canada, or CoDev, partners organizations in Canada and Latin America to work together in defense of human rights, labour rights, women’s rights, and public education. You can read about some of the partnerships here. In the area of Education, the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) and other Canadian teacher unions contribute to projects that promote gender equity, participatory classroom teaching practices, and public input into education policy. The partnership model of “solidarity, not charity” is one of the many reasons I love CoDev and I have been volunteering with them since my return to Canada in 2007. In 2010 I had the honour of joining the Board of Directors and I will be finishing my second term this fall.
Non-Sexist Pedagogy in Central America
In April 2013, I joined a CoDev delegation with members of the BCTF to visit partners in El Salvador and Honduras working on non-sexist pedagogy projects (NSP). The idea behind NSP is that teachers play an important role in reinforcing or challenging gender roles, and can choose to take a stand against gender discrimination, and gender-based violence. Central American teachers have worked together to analyze the issues and their individual contexts to develop NSP programs for their classrooms. When asked, the BCTF has sent members with experience in adult education to help develop training programs for teachers.
In El Salvador, the focus of NSP is with young children, particularly in rural communities. Teachers ensure that boys and girls are seated together and that they share classroom tasks equally (neither of which were the norm before). We visited a grade 2 classroom where the students performed and then reflected on puppet shows depicting different kinds of family structures – some where the father told everyone what to do and others where the family shared tasks equally. In the discussion, they debated which families were more democratic and fair, and why. The next day we were honoured to attend the graduation ceremony of the fist Non-Sexist and Inclusive Pedagogy Diploma Program for teachers. We also met with the Women’s Secretariat of the Salvadoran teachers’ union who showed us their beautiful draft curriculum document which is based on teaching values of democracy, equality, and peace-building.
In Honduras, the focus is with adolescents, particularly around the issue of teen pregnancy. Unfortunately, teen pregnancy is high in Honduras and young mothers often drop out of school to take care of their babies. We visited a middle school in Tegucigalpa where the students read a story about a teenage couple who had accidentally gotten pregnant and then held a debate about whether or not the girl should leave school. They then watched a video on sexual health and the teacher was explicit about the shared responsibility of young boys and girls when it comes to accidental pregnancy.
One of the most inspiring moments was the next day at a workshop where 30 Honduran teachers trained in NSP had gathered for their end-of-year review. A 15-year-old student came to the workshop to address the teachers. He said (paraphrased) “my parents were too young when they had me and they couldn’t take care of me. They abandoned me and I have grown up wondering why they didn’t love me. Please don’t let this happen to other children. Please keep doing what you are doing”. I am so proud to have been a part of CoDev for the last six years and I will continue to support them for the rest of my life so that they can keep doing what they are doing. I hope some of you will now consider doing the same by becoming a member or donor here.
Click here to read a little more about my experience in Central America with CoDev.