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Voice supports small, minority organizations to create a more inclusive world

Most people in the world want to make their dreams come true. Unfortunately for marginalized groups, their dreams just remain dreams. They are silenced and face discrimination, exclusion and violence if they stand up for themselves. But the Voice program, an initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sees their potential for positive change. Voice’s Global Program Manager, Ishita Dutta, explains: “Voice provides tools for minority groups to make their voices heard and contribute to a more inclusive world for all of us.”

Since 2016, Hivos has implemented the program together with Oxfam Novib in six African and four Asian countries. Ishita continues: “What these countries have in common is that freedoms are severely curtailed and marginalized groups suffer the most. Voice funds small organizations that represent the interests of LGBTIQ+ groups, young people, the elderly, women who face exploitation and violence, Indigenous groups, ethnic minorities, and people living with disabilities. We have now financed about 500 projects run by a total of 1,100 organizations.”

In charge themselves

The people and organizations that receive funding from Voice are in charge of improving their own situation. “With Voice’s support, these small organizations have a shot at successfully applying for funding for their projects. Otherwise it would be hard for them to access mainstream development funding,” says Ishita.

Siska Noya is Voice’s program manager in Indonesia, where she assesses grant applications, among other things. “When I select a proposal, it doesn’t have to be written in perfect English or meet a certain academic level. For example, a proposal came in from a disabled woman with leprosy. She had never applied for a grant before and didn’t speak English. It was an incoherent proposal, but it was by and for a group of women. They know their own needs the best. That’s why I worked hard to make their proposal eligible for financing.”

 

Collaborate and learn from each other

Voice’s Linking Learning and Amplifier Officer in Indonesia, Giany Amorita Prastiwi, knows the degree of control grantees have. She brings different organizations together to share insights and collaborate. “It’s the people themselves who decide what we do during meetings; they know what they need for their development. Recently, for example, a trans organization said they wanted to do more to address the psychological problems of their members. So we put them in touch with another organization we support that specializes in psychological problems. This way they can work together, learn from each other and reinforce each other.”

What makes Voice so special is that the change really comes from the people themselves.

Workshops and presentations during the meetings are also mostly run by the groups themselves. “We recently asked a young disabled woman to be a moderator for a webinar. She was very nervous at first, but it turned out really well. It was fantastic to watch her confidence grow. Her family also started to see her differently, they saw her capabilities,” Giany says.

The key to success

The Voice program will run until 2024. What happens after that? “We hope the grantees will continue to grow bigger and stronger and succeed in bringing lasting positive change for minorities – even after Voice,” says Ishita.

Siska adds, “It’s interesting that you hear the Indonesian government on TV talking more and more about an inclusive society. Of course we can’t take all the credit, but our work and that of the people we support has definitely contributed to this change in mindset. That’s a wonderful development.”