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Young people make local politics

Young people in El Salvador have no voice in the public discussion. Their needs are hardly considered and they are often stigmatized as members of criminal youth gangs. Our partner organization ACISAM strengthens the rights of young people and youth organizations, promotes dialogue between the generations and implements measures to prevent violence.

The youth organisations and networks organise youth festivals where, in addition to political work, fun and games also have a role to play. (Photo: ACISAM)
The youth organisations and networks organise youth festivals where, in addition to political work, fun and games also have a role to play. (Photo: ACISAM)

For over ten years the left-wing guerrilla movement FMLN fought against the military regime in El Salvador. Right-wing paramilitaries killed thousands of supposed supporters of the FMLN. A peace treaty was signed in 1992 and the civil war ended. Since then, El Salvador has been a democracy, and the FMLN has ruled for 8 years.

But the causes of the violence could not be combated in 25 years: Decades after the end of the civil war, the violent situation is almost at the same level. Today it is not the military but the youth gangs, the so-called maras, that are terrorizing the country. The number of young people who are members of one of the youth gangs is estimated at about 30,000. A very high number - but the majority of the young people and the public are affected by the violence of the maras themselves.

Strengthening youth organisations and networks

Our partner organization ACISAM was founded in 1986 - also as a reaction to the civil war. Our work focuses on psychosocial care for adolescents and adults, education and media relations. Since 2009, we have been working with ACISAM on a project in the districts of Suchitoto and El Paisnal north of the capital San Salvador that combines three fields of action: Young people in crisis, young people and their rights and young people as social subjects. The project focuses on strengthening trained youth representatives* and their organizations and networks to raise awareness of youth issues. Trained participants carry on the knowledge they have already acquired through various channels. For example, there are youth organizations that have set up their own radio programme or small television programmes. Via radio or television, the organizations pass on their knowledge about youth issues and violence prevention to interested young people and adults.

Since 2009, 4,000 young people and young adults have been informed about relevant topics through these channels and through sporting and cultural activities. They are informed about their rights and strengthened in their self-confidence and political commitment. The aim is to encourage young people to play an active role in shaping the development processes in their communities, to present their concerns to the responsible authorities and to ensure that their demands are implemented. Targeted lobbying should lead to the authorities taking responsibility for implementing measures to prevent violence and youth issues within the communities. The youth organizations have already achieved initial successes: Sensitized by further training in environmental issues, they have worked with the municipal administration to ensure that a mountain of rubbish near a school site was disposed.

„Learning to be happy!“

The merger of youth organizations into networks enables a better basis for negotiations between civil society and government representatives. The combined voices give more weight to the demands, especially on the topics of violence, pregnancies of underage women and unemployment. On the one hand, this strengthens the participation of young people at community level. On the other hand, it helps to promote democracy. The young people learn to formulate their ideas through non-violent communication. In this way they help to shape the social structures of their communities and take their happiness into their own hands - just as the ACISAM logo says: "Learning to be happy" (Aprendiendo ser felices!).


Project Young people make local politics
Place/Region Twelve municipalities of the municipality of El Paisnal and eighteen municipalities of the municipality of Suchitoto, El Salvador
Partner Asociación de Capacitación e Investigación para la Salud Mental (ACISAM)
Target group 900 young people and two multipliers each from 30 youth organisations
  • Education and training of young people
  • Organisational development of youth organisations and two networks
  • Lobbying for the implementation of youth policy
  • Youth promotion measures at community level 
    Duration 2016-2018
    Budget 50.000,00 Euro p.a.
    Sponsor BMZ

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