26 years old Rocío Fuentes from San Salvador, has been a LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people) activist since she was 15 years old. But as activist she has never dared to stand in front of decision makers and fight injustice with only her words.
In November 2014 Rocío suddenly got a chance to convince people from the Presidential Office of El Salvador about improving the conditions for LGBTI communities.
Rocío recalls the meeting at the Presidential Office with anxiety: “I was so, so nervous the first time I had to go there. I could really feel how they all looked strange at me thinking: what is a young activist with tattoos doing here in the presidential office?” Luckily she managed to get a hold of herself thinking: “To me it is a big deal - I believe it is going to change lives - including my own - so I pulled myself together”.
But to her own big surprise the words coming out of her mouth were far from the introduction she had prepared: “I told them that even though we are young we have a lot of important things to say. I said to them that you are actually working for us - so I think it is important for you to talk to people like me, to tell you what is working and what is not working in this country. If you don’t take this into consideration just remember that the biggest part of the population in El Salvador is between18-32 year old. Please have that in mind”. Surrounded by shocked Government Officials in suits and ties Rocío immediately regretted the little outburst.
A successful first attempt as govenment lobbyist
The fear of lobbying with decision makers changed for Rocío in 2014 - just before the meeting at the Presidential Office.
At that time Rocío participated in two trainings for young activists at one of ActionAid’s youth training hubs; Global Platform El Salvador: “The social media training at the Global Platform gave me a lot of security and self-confidence when it comes to lobbying. My trainers noticed that I am pretty good at making speeches and talking to people - so they worked a lot with me on that specific area” Rocío explains.
The social media training at the Global Platform also gave Rocío an opportunity to briefly talk to some Government Officers at the Presidential Office in El Salvador about her work with LGBTI. A few weeks later Rocío was invited to the meeting at the Presidential Office, where she had the little outburst in front of all the Government Officials.
28 years old
Director of a Salvadorian Youth Organisation
Training of Traineres (2014)
Social Media (2014)
Today Rocío has no clue why she started the meeting out with the outburst: “It came out of nowhere I surely didn’t plan it. But luckily the Government Officials laughed a lot. I think they were amazed that I talked to them like that and it actually helped me getting their attention and gradually I felt more comfortable.” Rocío explains laughing of the peculiar situation.
The results of Rocíos first attempt as a lobbyist were astonishing. The Government of El Salvador agreed to make changes in their 5-year plan to include a focus on addressing issues related to the LGBTI community.
Rocío also made an agreement with the Presidential Office about delivering capacity building of government staff on how to deal with transgender, along with other commitments to change the current procedures to embrace all sexual minorities and create new regulation regarding sexual discrimination in public offices.
Today Rocío is director of a small non-profit youth organisation working with education and advocacy as tools to transform the conditions for LGBTI’s to the better. Here Rocío has shared her learnings from the trainings at the Global Platform: “We actually ended up making an internal replica of the most important knowledge and tools from Global Platform trainings. So today my co-workers are giving workshops based on the methodologies that I’ve learned at the Global Platform”.