Photo: Fredrik Lerneryd

In 2016, Forum Syd worked with over 300 partners in 65 countries. Together, we built democracy, strengthened the rights of marginalized people and empowered local communities. Read some of our impact stories from 2016 below.


Forum Syd supports projects in 24 countries in Africa. Our office in Nairobi implements the Wajibu Wetu programme, which supports media, arts, cultural and gender focused civil society organisations using innovative approaches to advance human rights work in Kenya. Forum Syd’s Nairobi office also works with e-Learning, capacity building, and sub-granting to local partners.

Our Somalia offices implement the Somalia Diaspora Programme and the Somali-Swedish Business Programme (SSBP). Throughout 2016, Forum Syd has increased the local presence in Somalia.

Forum Syd-supported series Tuko Macho featured at Toronto Film Festival

TukoTuko Macho Cover. Photo: The Nest

In 2016, Forum Syd-supported web series Tuko Macho was featured at the 41st Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The series is produced by the Nest Collective, as part of Forum Syd’s Wajibu Wetu programme. The series is a study of crime, political culture and belonging, and explores what happens when the common man decides to tackle crime in his city.

“Forum Syd believing in us and taking on this unconventional project was of great learning not only for us but also for the creative ecosystem in Kenya. Through this partnership we developed a web series that was big on direct interaction with thousands of people via social media, and then later to millions on mainstream television, in engendering deep conversations around citizenship. We are glad our paths crossed and that we got to produce magic together,” says Njoki Ngumi and George Gachara, Directors of The Nest.

A youth ambassador for sustainable development

Rosemary Mafumiko is a 20 year old youth activist in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She is one of the United Nations Association of Tanzania’s 50 youth ambassadors implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) locally.

With support from Forum Syd, our member organisation United Nations Association of Sweden works together with United Nations Association of Tanzania through the Global Goals programme.

Rosemary Mafumiko demonstrates a sign depicting Sustainable Development Goal 5; to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Photo: Sanna Gustafsson, Forum Syd

Empowering women in Hargeisa’s suburbs

These women get vocational training through Somaliland
These women get vocational training through Somaliland Youth Development Association and Forum Syd. Photo: Rodrigo Arce, Forum Syd

With support from Forum Syd, Swedish organisation Surad Relief partners with the local organisation Somaliland Youth Development Association to champion women’s right to education and, through that, to reduce gender inequality. The organisations have worked together for five years to provide vocational training to housemaid girls in Somaliland, especially from the poor suburbs outside Hargeisa.

The trainings support women to develop basic literacy skills, which is a prerequisite to become engaged in income generating activities. In addition, women also become equipped with knowledge and skills necessary to apply for jobs, through courses on leadership, management, CV writing and interview techniques.

Tackling climate change issues holistically

Collins Ondiek, Onyuongo Vision Youth Group in Kisumu County, flattenedCollins Ondiek, Chairman of Onyuongo Vision Youth Group. Photo: Sanna Gustafsson, Forum Syd

“Climate change issues are like atoms creating a molecule: there are so many issues that interplay. To be able to create sustainable change, we need to adopt a holistic approach.”

These are the words of Collins Ondiek, Coordinator of the Onyuongo Vision Youth Group, which works to raise awareness of climate change issues in Kisumu, Kenya. Forum Syd supports the group through the Global Action Local Empowerment programme, which is implemented by the National Council of Swedish Youth Organisations, LSU, together with the local partner Youth Alive! Kenya. LSU is also one of Forum Syd’s member organisations.

Young people constitute a large part of Kenya’s population, and many of them are unemployed. The agricultural sector constitutes the backbone of Kenya’s economy, not least in creating jobs and in ensuring food security. But climate change threatens this source of livelihood on which many depend, especially in rural areas. It is important to apply a youth perspective on projects that focus on climate and agriculture, to ensure that projects are not only designed to fit young people’s needs, but also to be sustainable.

Last year, the group participated in trainings on Forum Syd’s methodology Right(s) Way Forward. As a result of these trainings, Collins says that he has gained deeper insight into how climate change issues interplay. This is particularly important in Kisumu, as the county is facing multiple challenges related to climate change. Some of the county’s areas are prone to severe drought, whereas other areas are affected heavily by flooding. Collins says that he will incorporate the tools and methods on how to tackle climate issues holistically that he gained from Right(s) Way Forward into his own trainings.

He is optimistic that the trainings will create ripple effects, as more and more community members become environmentally aware. “We see a decrease in the cutting down of trees now that more and more people are aware of the negative effects this has on our environment,” Collins says.

She is becoming a politician to empower women and youth

Mercy Odera of Kenya Progressive Youth, Kisumu County, Kenya flattenedMercy Odera in her garden in Kisumu, Western Kenya. Photo: Augustine Karani, Forum Syd

Mercy Odera lives in Kisumu County in Western Kenya. She never completed her studies and had no set plan for what she wanted to do when she grew up, until she heard about Forum Syd through Youth Alive Kenya and Kisumu Progressive Youth (KPY). Now she is determined to build a career in politics.

“I never had an ambition to become a politician, but after I came in contact with Forum Syd, I learned that have the ability, I have the right; I have everything it takes to become a politician.”

Mercy has taken part in Forum Syd’s various projects in Kisumu for the past five years, and she explains how this has changed her. Mercy got involved with Forum Syd and KPY through a programme for young women leaders in which she was linked with female mentors in Kenya and Sweden that advised her on issues of democracy and women in leadership. She says that she learned a lot by being able to discuss her ideas with someone who had more work experience than her. Mercy has gained further insight into how politics works in practice through her role as a clerk at the Kisumu Youth Assembly, a project that KPY is currently implementing with support from Forum Syd’s Wajibu Wetu programme.

Mercy says that she is now more self-assured and aware of the rights that she has under the Kenyan Constitution. This year, she is running to become a member of the County Assembly in Kisumu. As a politician, she wants to raise more attention to women and youth issues.


”You cannot fight a bad ideology, you need to present a better one”

Mohamed Abdirahman is a young Imam who works to promote peace in Mombasa, a county that is facing growing radicalisation and violent extremism, particularly among young people. He is a full-time Imam and dedicates his working hours to teaching his peers the Koran in a peaceful manner. Young people are a particularly vulnerable group due to the unemployment rate. Extremist groups take advantage of this and entice young people to join their ranks with promises of money.

                                                                                                                 Imam Mohammed Abdirahman in Mombasa. Photo: Augustine Karani, Forum Syd

Mohamed is a member of the Mombasa-based Generation of Peace Youth Group, a community-based organisation that aims to spread knowledge and peace among Muslim youth in Kenya and East Africa at large. Forum Syd works with the organisation through our local partner Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, as part of our Wajibu Wetu programme.

Generation of Peace holds lectures, debates and organises activities in mosques and communities to promote cohesion among different religious groups and keep young people informed and activated, which reduces the risk of them being affected by extremist influences. This has in turn created a more stable and peaceful Mombasa with reduced incidents of insecurity and violent extremism.

Innovative gardening counters conflict

Yabalo Youth Group in Moyale Northen Kenya, part of Wajibu Wetu Programme flattened (2)Yabalo Youth Group in Moyale is part of Forum Syd’s Wajibu Wetu Programme. Photo: Fredrik Lerneryd

Forum Syd works with the Yabalo Youth Group through our Wajibu Wetu programme, together with the local partners Pastoralist Integrated Support Programme (PISP). The Yabalo Youth Group is part of the pastoralist community in Moyale in Northern Kenya that traditionally rear livestock as a source of income. Northern Kenya is an arid area that has been hit hard by climate change. Severe droughts and lack of pasture and water sources have made livestock farming livestock more difficult and heightened tensions between communities through conflicts revolving around access to natural resources. Yabalo Youth Group has therefore started farming vegetables, which they sell at the local market to secure a complementary income to their livestock farming.

Yabalo Youth Group in Moyale Northen Kenya, part of Wajibu Wetu Programme flattened

Planting trees helps families secure livelihoods on Pemba Island

Farmer Khamis Sihia on Pemba Island Tanzania flattenedKhamis Sihia demonstrates the climate change effects on his land. Photo: Augustine Karani, Forum Syd

Khamis Sihia is a farmer who lives in the Kengeja community on Pemba Island, Tanzania. His family has depended on cultivating rice for a living for generations. In recent years, salt-water intrusion has destroyed the soil on the family’s rice farm. Salt-water intrusion is caused by rising sea levels that have hit Pemba hard and along with deforestation, is the main challenge that affects the income and food security of farmers and fishermen in Kengeja.

The Kengeja community is one of the target groups of the Global Goals programme, which is supported by Forum Syd and implemented jointly by the United Nations Association of Sweden and the United Nations Association of Tanzania. In 2016, community members were also trained in Forum Syd’s Right(s) Way Forward methodology, to further strengthen local community groups to identify methods to jointly fight climate change.

The community members of Kengeja have started to plant trees to counter the negative climate effects of deforestation and to secure income. Khamis’ family has started to grow banana trees on their farm, which are not as affected by salt water intrusion, as a new source of income for the family. By planting trees and adapting practices to the changing environment, Khamis hopes to better feed and support his family in the future.

Strengthening Somali girls and women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights

DSC_1655Network against FGM in Somaliland, Fotograf-Annika Johansson

Female genital mutilation (FMG), a practice that is rooted in gender inequality, attempts to control women’s sexuality, and ideas about purity, modesty and beauty. In Somaliland, more than 95 % of all girls are subjected to some form of FMG. This exposes girls to trauma and infections due to operations and many suffer from lifelong medical and psychosexual problems.

In the Maroodi-jeex, Awdal & Tog-dheer regions in Somaliland, Forum Syd supports a joint project between Somali Swedish Research Association (SRRA) and the Network against FGM in Somaliland (NAFIS) with the purpose of providing community education on FMG and psychological and medical support. Together, SRRA and NAFIS are increasing the knowledge and awareness about the harm caused by FMG and improve the care for the girls and women who suffer from its consequences.

“It was shameful to talk about. Shame on you, said my friends. It was not ok to talk about a young girl’s private parts. Now we see a change. Now everyone is talking freely about it, even men do it.”

Anab Farah Ahmed, director of Magan Maternal Hospital, one of three FGM Support Centers established through the project, explains that as the knowledge about the dangers of FGM is spreading, the previous silence and taboos around FGM is decreasing. The project’s aim is to develop a model for how FGM interventions can be integrated into the public health system. Experiences have shown that clear synergy effects can be achieved by combining counseling and care at the clinics with mobilization and education on women’s rights and the harmful consequences of FGM in the surrounding communities. Since receiving care at the clinics also means increased understanding of the roots causes of FGM, women are spreading awareness around the problem. A change away from FGM toward a less drastic form called ‘sunna’ is already visible certain places.

Find out more about Forum Syd’s work through our Kenya Office


Forum Syd supports projects in 21 countries in Asia. Our office in Phnom Penh builds capacity among partners and rights holders, which has increased their awareness on climate change and environmental impact, and has enabled them to work with duty bearers to respond to challenges. With Forum Syd’s technical and financial support, local partners have contributed to various key policies and laws concerning social accountability, natural resource management, as well as the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights. Supported communities have become key co-ordinators by building strong networks and co-operation between rights holders and duty bearers. This has made duty bearers more engaged in community development and increased the participation of marginalised groups.

Duty bearers receive training to counter domestic violence

RWF - Youth Leader, Photo Lay Socheat flattenedYouth leader Soy Channat ask questions during an exposure visit. Photo: Lay Socheat

In 2016, Forum Syd implemented its Right(s) Way Forward (RWF) process in various projects. In Cambodia, we built capacity in two communities (Kbal Touk Commune and Kampong Tralach Commune) to critically analyse community related issues, to develop community action plans on the issues, and to hold duty bearers accountable through constructive dialogue.

Local ownership is an important feature of the RWF process, and the communities were after the workshops able to critically analyse gender related issues in the community and then went on to create their own concrete and realistic action plans to counter these issues. During the workshops, communities identified which sub-national duty bearers and local leaders to hold accountable for the issues raised. Participants also identified influence actors and engaged these actors to strengthen the capacity of local politicians on how to address domestic violence and how to engage citizens in democratic development.

Participants consisted of sub-national duty bearers and local leaders such as the deputy director of Kampong Chhnang provincial department of women’s affairs, district deputy directors, commune council members, women and children -focal persons, village chiefs and representatives from the two communities.

The process brought community members and duty bearers closer by creating space for dialogue and increasing the community members’ confidence to interact with those in power. The leaders recognised their central role in pinpointing gaps in addressing domestic violence in legal procedures. They will move forward using monthly council meetings, women and children focal persons and other mechanisms part of the Right(s) Way Forward process to counter domestic violence.

Citizenship strengthen the rights of marginalised groups

Lacking citizenship means lacking rights. For the indigenous Red Lahu in Thailand this means discrimination, abuse and restricted access to health care, education and travel. With support from Forum Syd, Kids Future and Development Quality of life Lahu Association (DLA) co-operates on a project that aims to strengthen human rights for the Red Lahu, with particular focus on women and young people. The goal is to ensure citizenship for the Red Lahu people.

DLA is strengthening the right-claiming capacities of the Red Lahu by raising awareness about human rights and Thai citizenship and assisting in application processes. DLA’s results can be seen in how the increase in a village’s number of citizenships has caught the attention of public officials, which has led to more areas getting roads and electricity.

Kids Future - Kids participating in one of DLAs reproductive health trainings, Photo Tanawit PanpakarinKids participating in one of DLAs reproductive health trainings. Photo: Tanawit Panpakarin

“I can’t read and write and it is very difficult for me to travel and find work in other areas. I have to ask permission every time and it is hard to get treatment. Since I got the Thai ID I’m very proud that now I’m Thai and I can travel to any place I want and get treatment from hospital. Also my children they can get the same as me, they can go school as much they want.”

– Hang Jafoo, rights-holder in the target group

In recent years, implementation of DNA-testing and rigorous administrative requirements has made citizenship application a difficult issue. This makes the work of DLA even more significant. DLA’s rights awareness trainings have led to positive changes in the authorities’ behaviour toward the Red Lahu as well as other marginalised groups. This has for example resulted in more female staff at check points.

Fighting debt slavery and inequality with human rights and democracy

BLLF - Brickworks in Pakistan, Photo Britt-Marie Klang flattenedBrickworks in Pakistan. Photo: Britt-Marie Klang

“We don’t have the money or the time to be afraid.”

These are the words of Hazrat, member of the local organisation Bonded Labor Liberation Front Societies (BLLFS), which for several years have fought against debt slavery and child labour in Pakistan. The organisation operates in a dangerous environment: threats from factory owners and groundless police arrests are common. However, Hazrat says that: “…through patient work we have become a force to be reckoned with. The owners do not dare to neglect us anymore.”

With support from Forum Syd, BLLF Sweden works together with local partners in Pakistan to promote human rights and strengthen democratic participation for poor and marginalised people.

Many of the project’s participants now maintain a livelihood outside of debt slavery and have gained capacity to claim their rights. The project has functioned as a platform for empowering the role of women and girls in local communities. By networking with political parties, women organisations and legal professionals, the project has furthered the independence of female participants and strengthened their position as rights holders. A large part of these achievements also rest on change in societal norms. Educating male and elderly community members have led to more positive attitudes toward women and girls’ education and increased their participation in project activities.

Strengthening the rights of LGBTI-persons in Indonesia

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Indonesia face violence and discrimination on an everyday basis. Indonesian law does not criminalise LGBTI-persons, but there are no laws that recognise or protect their rights. Neither are there any laws to counter discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

With support from Forum Syd, RFSL works with the national federation Arus Pelangi to increase the state’s acceptance and recognition for LGBTI people in Indonesia and to increase public awareness of the discrimination LGBTI-persons face.

Together with local partners, Arus Pelangi holds trainings on human rights for LGBTI-persons and offers legal support to people that have been victims of discrimination and violence. The organisations document these abuses to use as evidence when discussing the situation with politicians, cultural and religious leaders and human rights organisations. In 2016, the situation in Indonesia worsened because of viral hate campaigns and political statements against LGBTI-persons. Because of this, the project’s focus in the past year has had to shift to support members, monitoring and taking steps to counteract these developments.

Syakila is marching in solidarity at the IWD 2017 to raise awareness on injustice and intersectionality: Photo: Arus Pelangi

“We are so happy and proud to see our partners standing by our side. We realise that it is still a long way ahead, but we are confident we will soon get there, as we are not alone, there are many people who support us, and we become stronger everyday.”

– Yuli Rustinawati, Chairperson of Arus Pelangi

The project has managed to provide an immense support for members of the Indonesian LGBTI community by strengthening their capacity as rights holders. The organisations’ joint advocacy efforts have resulted in public support from the ministry for women’s rights. Strategic alliances with legal aid agencies, the ministry for human rights and the broader coalition for human rights in Indonesia has supported Arus Pelangi in their advocacy work and supported their growth as a national federation.

Fulfilling children’s rights in Vietnam

Adoptionscentrum - Hang one of the participant in the projects child club making baskets, Lao Cai, Vietnam, Photo Eva-Maria RaskHang, a participant in one of the project’s childrens’ clubs, making baskets. Photo: Eva-Maria Rask

In Vietnam, children with disabilities, children living with HIV and those of single parents are among the most vulnerable groups in society due to poverty, stigma and discriminatory attitudes. For them, equal opportunity in education and participation is of particular importance in helping them overcome inferiority complexes; build their self- esteem and confidence.

Together with local partners and the support of Forum Syd, Adoptionscentrum work to strengthen the rights and protection of children in Vietnam. Through implementation of human rights-based projects across the country, joint efforts between Adoptionscentrum and their local partners have created a social environment that facilitates lasting improvements of children’s rights. An important part of this success lies in how the projects have approached local authorities to strengthen the capacity of duty bearers and include them in implementing activities.

“We have been more effective in holding local authorities accountable for fulfillment of children’s rights. In the past, we provided them with general request such as to pay attention to children. Now, we provide them with specific information, evidence and concrete results which are convincing.”

– WU member, Nghe An province.

Overall the projects have resulted in increased awareness and the fulfilment of children’s rights. This can be seen in how capacity building of local partners has enabled them to organise their own activities for children, parents and care-givers, and supported them in fulfilling and advocating for children’s rights. Strengthened facilitation and communication skills have fostered close contacts between local partner organisations and target groups. This has allowed them to provide concrete examples of rights violations in demanding duty-bearers to realise children and care givers’ rights.

Protecting the environment and changing norms through inclusive participation

In Cambodia, many communities depend on cultivation of land and water areas in order to secure their livelihood. The access to such areas is becoming more and more restricted by environmental destruction due to illegal fisheries and forestry operations. This progress is both threatening the communities’ livelihood and undermining the sustainable management of natural resources in Cambodia. While the affected communities are being successful in taking a stand against these challenges, their struggles often exclude women. Failing to secure the participation of women is a serious issue. This do not only obstruct women’s ability to claim their own rights and voice gender-specific issues, often times it also exacerbates the impact of other marginalising structures.

Green Women on excursion. Photo: Village Support Group

In this context, Forum Syd’s local partner, the Village Support Group (VGS) has therefore initiated “Green Women” groups, which has the purpose to strengthen the role and capacity of women in local communities. The project is already seeing good progress. The Green Women groups have become active and accepted participants in community development and in the protection of fisheries and forestry areas. Participants also claim that the inclusion of women has strengthened the collaboration between community organisations and local authorities. Further important is how the project has changed social norms regarding the role and capacity women and reduced domestic violence. This can be attributed to how capacity strengthening has enabled the Green Women groups to become actors of change, and through that empowered other women in their communities.

The Green Women is a successful example of how gender mainstreaming in projects contribute to change in norms as well as safeguard against domestic violence. Structural changes like this gives much promise that women will continue to take key roles in leadership to protect community resources.

Communities in Lahore give proof of why mobilisation and development go together

Lärarförbundet, Photo Karin Lagerblad, participants in Youhannabad 2, Beauty parlor participants being taught henna paintingsParticipants in Youhannabad 2 being taught henna paintings. Photo: Karin Lagerblad

In Lahore, Pakistan, Forum Syd supports the Swedish Teachers Union and the local organisation Labour Education Foundation (LEF) in their work to promote the rights of workers, with particular focus on women. Raising awareness on workers’ rights, strengthening the capacity for mobilisation and improving income opportunities have helped local partner organisations to become empowering actors in their communities. One important outcome is that women are being seen as drivers of change. This is noticeable in the overall strengthening of women’s roles, for example through increased participation in local organisations and political procedures, increased representation in leadership positions as well as in improvement of education opportunities for girls.

”The most important difference is organising the people, motivate education, give knowledge about rights and political awareness. This is not charity. It is development!”

– Nazli Javed, social mobiliser

Raising awareness about human rights has had positive impacts in demanding change from duty bearers. One example is how successful community mobilisation against land grabbing by one local partner resulted in the government securing land for the construction of a long-demanded college. Another partner organisation managed to motivate the local representatives to approve a loan in order to improve community sanitation.

Significant change can be seen in how local partner organisations have become more development-oriented in their work after joining the project. Strengthening community members to secure livelihoods and ensure basic rights has resulted in members sending their kids to school, establishing their own businesses and breaking away from slave-like working conditions.

Find out more about Forum Syd’s work through our Cambodia Office


Forum Syd supports projects in ten countries in Eastern Europe, focusing on promoting human rights, equality and climate-smart practices.

Promoting the rights of people with disabilities through music and arts

ShareMusic and Performing Arts - School workshop in music technologies, Photo Sharemusic and Performing ArtsMusic workshop at school. Photo: Sharemusic & Performing Arts

In Belarus, people with disabilities often face discriminating attitudes. This excludes them from participating fully in cultural and social activities and makes it difficult for them to develop their artistic potential. ShareMusic’s project Sofit uses creative arts to empower people with disabilities, with the ultimate aim of creating a sustainable and inclusive society in Belarus. With Forum Syd’s support, ShareMusic & Performing Arts and the Belarusian organisation BelAPDIiMI have contributed to positive change in attitudes and a driving force behind Belarus signing of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a person with disabilities or not, because everybody has their role, their mission in an inclusive process.”

– Natallia Semeniako, chairperson of BelAPDIiMI in Gomel

The potential of promoting inclusivity of people with disabilities in cultural and educational sectors can be seen in the project’s wide multi-layered impact. Using arts to promote inclusion and equality has not only empowered participants to go on and start their own organisations, it has also furthered the discussion about norms in Belarus. Media and journalists have co-operated with ShareMusic & Performing Arts and BelAPDIiMI to publish material free of stereotypes and prejudice. The project also collaborates with the largest pedagogical university in Belarus, Maksim Tank, to provide knowledge sharing for implementing artistic and inclusive work methods in education.

New law in Ukraine increases access to information for people with visual impairments

“Thanks to the Daisy project, I can now access information and read books on the same conditions as people without visual impairments.”

Mikhail Petriv lives in Lviv, Ukraine and is one of the people of the Daisy project’s target group. Implemented by Svefi and its local partner the Ukrainian Organisation of Handicapped in the Lviv Region (USI), the Daisy project aims to support the development of a society where people living with visual impairments receives equal access to education and information. Forum Syd has worked with Svefi for almost a decade, supporting their projects through sub-granting and building capacity to enhance the organisation’s ability to achieve its vision.

Many important steps have been taken in recent years towards a society with equal rights for people living with disabilities. The organisations have organised some 100 advocacy activities, such as demonstrations, seminars and information meetings, to raise awareness and change attitudes among authorities in the Ukraine.

A milestone was reached in 2015 when the Ukrainian government passed a bill proposed and lobbied by Svefi and USI, making it compulsory for all publishing firms to leave a copy of their books for conversion to talking books, such as the Daisy format.

Daisy Project - Participants in the daisy project, Photo Marta SidorjakParticipants in the Daisy project. Photo: Marta Sidorjak

The Daisy project has launched an easily accessible and well-structured electronic library where people with visual impairments can download books converted to the Daisy format for free. The library contained 2,000 titles at the end of this project, but is still growing as USI’s members has continued to update the electronic library with new material.

Not only has the Daisy project made many new books available as talking books, the unique format has also changed the reading process, says Mikhail. Previously, people with visual impairments could only listen to a talking book in page order, not being able to browse within the book, which Mikhail says was particularly frustrating when reading textbooks and studying for exams.

Because of the unique Daisy format he can now browse between chapters or pages and read the book in the way and pace that suit him best. Michael says that the Daisy project has revolutionised the access to information for people with visual impairments, who now can read books on the same terms as everyone else.

Confidence building in South Caucasus improves the accountability of duty-bearers

The countries of South Caucasus have made important advances in recent years but are still afflicted by internal conflicts and political and military confrontations. Levels of civil society development vary significantly in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. While Georgian and Armenian civil society organisations (CSOs) operate in a relatively harassment-free environment, the government of Azerbaijan continues to put heavy pressure on CSOs, civic activists, the media, freedom of opinion and information.

To break this spiral, Forum Syd supports UNA Sweden and local UN associations in the region through a confidence building programme with the aim of strengthening cross-border connections and co-operation between young people from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

UNA Sweden - Zora Csalagovits holds a training in teambuilding with participants, Photo Guram MuradovZora Csalagovits holds a teambuilding exercise with participants. Photo: Guram Muradov

By training young people to conduct their own rights-based activities in the region, the programme has led to broad positive changes in cross-border co-operation and understanding among participants.

Trainings in the programme also included follow-up on conducted activities. This has led to participants engaging directly with duty bearers in empowering marginalised groups. In Armenia, participants implemented a project to revive a day-care centre for children with special needs. Through successful co-operation with local authorities, the day-care centre now has teachers and a psychologist in place. Advocacy campaigns in Georgia have resulted in improving public accessibility for people with disabilities as well as making the quality of domestic water supply meet required standards. In the city of Akhaltsikhe, participants influenced the city council to improve their public accountability towards media and the public by giving 10 days’ notice of council meetings rather than 30 minutes, as was previously the case.

Find out more about Forum Syd’s work through our Belarus Office

Latin America

Forum Syd supports projects in 10 countries in Latin America. Our office in Bogotá is working with local partners, building their capacity to create lasting change on issues such as peace and conflict resolution and gender equality.

Promoting gender equality in conflict areas

Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has lasted for more than half a century, has had a particularly severe impact on women, who have bore the brunt of violence inflicted upon their relatives, their communities or upon themselves. Hundreds of thousands of Colombian women suffered the effects of violence on their own bodies, and have lost husbands, children, and grandchildren. Additionally, their participatory capacity and their right to the sustainable development of their territories have been significantly reduced. Nonetheless, many women have been the main agents in the reconstruction of social networks in their communities and territories.

In Caquetá, Forum Syd implemented the Right(s) Way Forward – Gender Equality Tool with women from several organisations in the San Vicente del Caguán region. Several workshops were held to increase women self-recognition, as well as their agency and capacity building. Initially, a group of leaders were trained as workshop facilitators that were subsequently held at Troncales, with the participation of 30 women and youngsters from the Community Local Management Board.

Noralba, one of the community facilitators, hugging her niece. Photo: Astrid Cañas

“The work experience we had with Forum Syd was one of the best things that has happened to us as an organised community, and the work with us women has been very valuable,” says Noralba, one of the regional leaders, a victim of the Colombian conflict in several ways, but nonetheless an admirably strong human being, full of hope about the future of the region, where, as she sees it, there is a special role for the younger generation.

“It has been really relevant the work we are doing with young women. I have a granddaughter, age seven, who goes with me everywhere I go. You can clearly perceive how all these young women are learning and appropriating tools so as to become political and social agents of our communities.”

“This experience has had a strong impact on Noralba’s granddaughter, she wants to be a facilitator too to teach others that men should not use violence against women,” says Astrid Cañas, Forum Syd’s Right(s) Way Forward gender Equality Tool trainer.

With the RWF-GET methodology, women in Caquetá are empowering themselves to reclaim their rights and increase their access and control over resources, also developing a counter culture in gender discrimination and gender based violence.

Advocacy lead to the protection of indigenous territories

Rain Forest Society - Ethnzoning in Santida village, flattenedEthnozoning in Santida village. Photo Edwilson Pordeus

In the Karib eco-corridor in the Brazilian Amazonas, the indigenous and slave descendants communities face increasing pressures, while struggling to fully ascertain their rights to their territories and their ability to fully represent themselves. With the help of Foum Syd, Equipe de Conservacao da Amazonia (Ecam) and the Rain Forest Society support the communities in effectively addressing increasing pressures, improving quality of life, and sustaining natural resources.

“The project has been extremely useful for strengthening our autonomy and representation with the authorities in our region. Including our management plan will allow us to further our goals in bringing a better education system to our communities and eventually creating a university campus for our students in our main village.”

– Eliseu Wai Wai, Wai Wai General Chief

Last year, local partners achieved milestones in the recognition of indigenous territories. Significant progress can be seen in the work to include culturally and environmentally sensitive areas under the national management policy on indigenous territories. Also, the co-operation between indigenous communities in implementing a shared municipal project has meant that the needs of indigenous villages, and crucial information about their land, will now be considered in local and regional policies regarding health, education and sustainable development.

The joint project has also strengthened the collaboration between communities, and built the capacity of more than 300 local leaders by strengthening their influence over the implementation of municipal budgets through improved oversight on local municipal councils.


Young people building democracy

Emmaus Björkå - Planning Meeting with MCN activists, Photo Emmaus Björkå
Focus group meeting between Emmaus Björkå and MCN members. Photo: Emmaus Björkå

With support from Forum Syd, Emmaus Björkå conducts the “Youths building democracy” project with Movimiento Comunal Nicaragüense (MCN) in Nicaragua. Briceyda Traña, project manager, says that the project’s emphasis on equality and participatory democratic processes has fostered a leadership style amongst the youths that centres on respect, dialogue and large-scale consensus. Briceyda also works as a national co-ordinator for MCN, and has played an important role in scaling up local initiatives to the national level. An example of the local and national synergy effects the project has contributed to is that local youth agendas were united into a national one. In turn, the agenda has helped to co-ordinate and strengthen the capacity of MCN across the country.

“Suddenly you realise that my work at the national level has impacts at the local level. Sometimes it almost feels like I hear my words coming out of their mouths,” Briceyda says.

“I love how grass-root organisations put feminism at the top of the agenda.”

Latinamerikagrupperna - Ísis Menezes Táboas, participant in the projects women leadership trainings, Photo Sori LundqvistÍsis Menezes Táboas, participant in the projects women leadership trainings. Photo Sori Lundqvist

Ísis Menezes Táboas from the Brazilian small-scale farmers organisation Movimento de Mulheres Camponesas is one of many partners that Latinamerikagrupperna and La Via Campesina support with help from Forum Syd. An important part of this support is the strengthening of local leaders’ capacity as political actors. Ísis Menezes Táboas is one such leader. Together with representatives from several partner organisations across Latin America she participated in one of the female leadership training organised by La Via Campesina and Latinamerikagrupperna.

The leadership trainings are one step in the larger struggle against a global food industry and agricultural model that sustains inequality and unequal distribution of natural resources at the expense of small-scale farmers and rural populations in Latin America. Amongst these, more than 50 per cent are women, whose contribution to food and agricultural production is rarely recognised and who do not enjoy the same rights as men in terms of inheritance of land, credits etc.

The leadership trainings have built a strong network among participants, and strengthened their capacity in a variety of ways. One significant outcome is that the trainings equip participants to hold trainings in their own organisations and communities, thus creating a wide-spread ripple effect. By being strengthened as political leaders, participants have gained increased influence in local decision-making processes. In Honduras for example, participants contributed to the adoption of a law concerning credits to women in rural areas. Ongoing advocacy activities to change the law have been joined by more recent participants from the leadership trainings in, for example hearings, information campaigns and meetings with government officials.

Cultivating peace in Caquetá, Colombia

Colombia is experiencing a significant moment because of the signing and implementation of the peace agreement between the government and the FARC guerrilla, as well as with the formalization of peace negotiations with the ELN guerrilla.

In the region of Caquetá, the FARC guerrilla has had a strong presence and influenced the social, political and economic dynamics over the years. Since 2015, Forum Syd has led the project “Labrando Paz” (Cultivating Peace) in the region with the purpose of supporting territorial appropriation models that local organizations have been building there. Through participatory development and capacity strengthening, Labrando Paz has supported local organisations in integrating their different perspectives and in managing their territories based on local experiences and needs. In turn, the project´s support in participation and decision-making processes has enabled these organisations to influence public policies related to the implementation of peace agreements.

Labrando Paz´s focus on issues such as food security, sustainable community projects and political capacity has therefore prepared the Caquetá region in the context of the peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla. In such a scenario, there will be a unique opportunity for the inhabitants of the region to participate, influence and decide upon the present and future of their own territories.

Cabildo Juan Tama - from Carlos at Colombia office
Forum Syd staff together with community members. Photo: Forum Syd 

Find out more about Forum Syd’s work through our Colombia Office