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Save the Children organised a week-long workshop in Mexico for key regional and country programmes’ staff to discuss the situations of violence in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.

The outcome was to create a theory of change that responds to the causes, dynamics and effects of violence in order to develop more in-depth programmatic strategies at both country and regional levels.

Three types of activities were highlighted in the preliminary plan that was developed:

  1. Response
  2. Resilience activities for longer-term impact
  3. Advocacy and coordination

Response

The main response activities proposed included directly negotiating with gangs and their leaders, and providing alternatives to violence for youths by establishing credit unions for them to manage, and training them on how to run small businesses.

The strategies proposed creating restorative justice programmes and setting up special services for victims of violence, such as psycho-social support, in association with government ministries.

Ensuring that general response work always contains violence response activities was also highlighted as a crucial component to responding to the situation of violence in the region.

Resilience

Longer–term resilience work proposed directly supporting women, particularly single mothers, through micro-financing, and creating or supporting nurseries where they can leave their children while at work. It also included establishing broader safe spaces for children within actual communities through community participation, advocacy and sensitisation.

Training on how to avoid and deal with violence for youths, families and communities was also proposed, with a mind to supporting this initiative with livelihoods training to increase job opportunities for adolescents and give them real alternatives to joining gangs.

Advocacy and Coordination

In order to address the situations of violence, Save the Children identified the need to work with local partners, the private sector, and particularly with government ministries to increase the capacity and commitment amongst these actors to respond to the causes and effects of violence.

Honduras proposed to work closely with municipal authorities to develop training centres for women and adolescents, as well as working closely with private businesses to facilitate the incorporation of trained youths into their companies.

Guatemala proposed to negotiate protection systems with all relevant national stakeholders, including influencing municipal public policy and national security policy to ensure that protection is a central component of these.

Conclusion

The proposed preliminary response plans will need to be developed in more detail and adapted to each country setting. In general, however, a scale up in violence response work is needed within Save the Children and amongst other actors in these countries.

This scale up will require strong technical capacity within Save the Children to work in violence, and more commitment among donors to fund programmes that not only respond to the effects of violence but that also attempt to address its causes.

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