A group of young Miskito people from Honduras learned how to use new technology to strengthen their cultural identity and democratic participation. Not only that, but the effort gives the young people the chance and skills to meet and talk to other young people, politicians, and other important people in an area where communication and transportation are usually hard.
Good results have come from a project in which young people from the Miskito territories in eastern Honduras, where World Forests works, have learned to use technology to improve their ability to talk to each other and work together. Experience has shown that using technology can help indigenous people keep their cultural identity, democratically participate in society, and progress locally. Young people in the Miskito territories don't always find it easy to participate in the democratic processes that set the rules and priorities for their region's growth. The La Moskitia region is the largest natural area in Central America. It is spread out over a large area on both sides of the border between Nicaragua and Honduras. There are swamps, rivers, lagoons, rainforests, mangrove forests, and large areas of pine-tree savannah here.
The members of Red Juventud Miskitu MASTA know this very well, which is why they are glad to have the chance to work with new technologies that can help them organize and work on their political projects without traveling all over the area. The leader of the Masta youth group, Roger Benneth, says: "Here, it's almost impossible to get young people to work together." In La Moskitia, it costs a lot to go to different places. Holding a single gathering or meeting can cost more than $2,500. "It's not easy."
Through online training, the young people have been learning about technology and how to use it to organize and mobilize themselves and other young people for the past six months. They now have smartphones, computers, access to social media, airtime, and data, and they can use these things to organize and mobilize themselves and other young people. At the same time, they have used the increased access to communication and information to build their self-confidence, sense of cultural identity, and belief that they can gain democratic influence through action.
Thirteen experts have worked together to offer training on various topics. The youth group of the Miskito people, Red Juventud Miskitu MASTA, worked with the development group MOPAWI from La Moskitia and Verdens Skoe to carry out the project. Through the Tech for Democracy initiative, Global Focus has given money to help.
Because of the project and what the young people have learned, their voices can now be heard by politicians, on social media platforms, and in local and national media. For example, the young people met virtually with José Carlos Cardona, the Minister of Development, and Erika Urtecho, a National Congress member representing the La Moskitia region. They talked about politics and asked the national government to help La Moskitia. Among other things, they spoke about the chances for young people to get jobs and advance in their careers, the Miskito people's cultural identity, the management of territories, and the general development of La Moskitia, especially in terms of education, health care, and infrastructure. Jhonny Sevilla, who works for the national daily newspaper El Libertador and has been working with the young people to make the project happen, says that these meetings have been necessary. "The young people have learned much from meeting these political figures." They have learned that their worries and thoughts are also significant. "They have shown them that they are important as people, too," he says.
The young people have also been able to talk to and be interviewed by different news outlets. Here, they have been able to share their ideas with other young people and grow their network, areas of collaboration, and spheres of influence. They have reached out to young people who have moved away from the area so they can also take part and help support the cause of young Miskitos.
At the same time, young people have learned how to make digital communication campaigns from scratch, which they post on Facebook, for example. They have made campaigns about tourism, traditional medicines, and the culture and identity of the Miskito.
"We've learned a lot that will help us in the future, like running campaigns, taking good pictures with our phones, and organizing ourselves using WhatsApp, which we didn't know how to do before. It's been a wonderful time," she says. The hope is that the network will grow in the future, giving the Miskitos more democratic power in a country where they have often been left out and ignored, including by the political system. The young people have been able to get a social network up and running, which is now very active. This has given people hope that they will become more involved in political processes in the future.
"We want to know how we can help the network grow in the best way." One of the young people who participated in the project, Jeremas Salinas Talavera, says, "We need to get more people involved and keep building our political agenda so we can participate and have more power."
Participants in the project have worked on two parts: learning about digital media and getting cell phones and computers to use in the activities. Twenty-eight young people, including the Red Juventud Miskitu MASTA board members, have taken part. At least two people from each of the twelve Miskito territories have been there. "We were worried that they would quit after a couple of weeks. So, we made a special effort to bring in outside experts and work in groups so that the virtual events would be more engaging, interesting, etc., which has worked well. In the end, most of the group members participated in the project.