Heal Political Divides

The President’s approval rating was 34%. National representatives were even lower at 28%. Protests threatened violence. So much had been promised, so little fulfilled.

The 2011 Tunisian Revolution – the massive outbreak of civil resistance that toppled a government and inspired the Arab Spring – heralded democracy, human rights, and freedom. But the years that followed weren’t easy. High youth unemployment, slow economic growth, and rocky transitions plagued Tunisia.

By 2014, just 48% of the country still believed in democracy as the best form of government; more began to think they needed a leader with a “strong hand.”

One young Tunisian, Essid, was anxious for a new country. The Revolution totally disrupted the dull life he expected – in his words “just study, live, work, die” – with a hope he hadn’t imagined possible. But now, he felt helpless again. Essid believes Tunisian youth “have energy and competence, but they aren’t encouraged. When you don’t have the information, you can’t imagine how to change things.”

If you’re frustrated enough, you’ll turn to violence.

At this critical moment in Essid’s life – and Tunisia’s – Search’s team was hard at work.

Knit together with projects focused on religious leaders, women, and deradicalization, engaging youth was the linchpin. Search started Youth Councils in all 24 governorates in Tunisia, training youth to participate constructively in their newborn democracy. The Youth Councils made connections with local government; they learned to navigate and influence the system. We gave them mini-grants to start making a difference in their communities. In one governorate, the Youth Council started with beach clean-ups but soon graduated to launching an entrepreneurial training program for high schoolers.

Today, they’ve founded a social innovation lab that houses five non-profit organizations.

According to Ines, a Search field coordinator, “Before it was all about short projects – just for fun, just one-time events. Now youth have a long-term view. They’re looking at the bigger picture.

Keep Search’s teams at work around the world. Now is the critical moment to ease political tensions, prevent violence, and turn the tide toward inclusive governments.

The Youth Councils change people’s relationship with their government. Whereas “people tend to consider the administration as a black box; they have no idea how it works… with Search’s program, youth helped bring the administration nearer to the community and vice versa,” observes Toezeur, a local public official.

As Essid says, “We just need to show them they can make a difference.” With a little knowledge, youth will rise to the challenge.

With your support, we came alongside the Tunisian people as they unlocked something powerful. Where instability could have tumbled back down into oppression and violence, instead citizen participation, creativity, and new possibilities blossomed. There’s still a way to go to reduce political violence, ease tensions, and ensure inclusion. But as of last year, 86% of Tunisians believe democracy is the best choice of government. The Youth Councils, working with local government, are part of the solution, breaking through polarization to move their country forward.

Conflict – not violence, but honest disagreement – is a powerful engine. The best possibilities, the future solutions we need can happen when we work together, people and government, across our honest differences.

We can make this happen, at home and abroad, but we urgently need your help. By the end of 2017, we need to raise $260,000 from individuals like you. Will you help us meet this goal, and empower people like Essid and countries like Tunisia?

Now is the critical moment in Sri Lanka. Still recovering from a long and bloody civil war that lasted over 25 years, killed tens of thousands, and displaced hundreds of thousands, Sri Lankans are slowly rebuilding their democratic institutions.

But the pain of loss and the alienation of war linger.

In 2015, the Sri Lankan government asked Search to play a leading role in the country’s reconciliation process, thanks to our track record of trust, impartiality, and impact. The government asked our Sri Lanka Director to lead the design, training, and facilitation of government-appointed individuals in every district in the country as they set up local reconciliation commissions. In this role, Search will help define Sri Lanka’s national process for reconciling after decades of hatred. We’ll balance justice and the need to heal. We’ll build the mechanisms and institutions into Sri Lankan society that will keep such devastating violence from ever happening again.

Help define humanity’s future with us. Give now to stop senseless violence, heal broken communities, and ease polarization – in Sri Lanka and beyond.

Having a government that truly represents its people is key to that future. The war in Sri Lanka produced tens of thousands of war widows. These women became heads of their households overnight. Women now make up 35.5% of the country’s labor force and account for 60% of undergraduate students in Sri Lanka.

But they still have a long way to go in the political arena.

Just last year, women occupied less than 6% of national representative seats, 4% at the provincial level, and an abysmal 1.9% in local government.

But the status quo is changing. After years of effort, advocating alongside women’s organizations, using media to shift attitudes, and engaging everyone from urban politicians to rural teachers, Search led a campaign to push for women’s political participation.

As a result, the national government approved legislation requiring that women fill at least 25% of local government positions. It’s a major victory for inclusion. It’s a giant step closer to ensuring the millions of girls and women in Sri Lanka also get a leading role in their country’s story.

One woman starting to write her own future is Thanuja. To escape the horrors of war, she shed her very identity. Her mixed-ethnicity family fled their home, changed their last name, and even switched religions to survive. Today, Thanuja is reclaiming her identity – both sides. After our leadership training, she started a local initiative to break down the barriers of pain and prejudice separating ethnicities in her village. Today, she brings together children who’ve never met a kid from another ethnic group.

At 10 years old, Chinthana was brutally wounded by a shell as her family escaped their hometown. Undeterred by psychological or physical scars, she pursued her education even through war and displacement. But that inner strength failed to translate. She was quiet and intimidated. Today, after Search’s training, she’s leading her community on issues of children’s rights and child abuse.  

Kalaichelvi’s 13-year-old son lost his life in the war. Grief threatened to overwhelm her. Kalaichelvi first started trying to help her community just to keep her mind off her terrible loss. But she didn’t feel that she could make a difference. After working with Search, Kalaichelvi started a small business with other women in her village across ethnic lines. She’s built relationships with local government. Today, public officials consult her on community issues.

These women are healing from the trauma of war. They’re building a better life, better communities, and a better country because of you. Each $1 you give unlocks $16 of government grants. Help us reach our goal of $260,000 by the end of 2017 to unlock over $4 million to empower strong women like Thanuja, Chinthana, and Kalaichelvi.

Give now to help Thanuja build the future she’s desperate for, where we “put our differences aside and unite.”

In Sierra Leone, we are doing just that, helping the people to unite and hold their government accountable for the future they envision. A little over a decade since the end of their civil war, Sierra Leone will hold national elections next year.

It’s another critical moment in the country’s journey towards stability.

“Sierra Leone’s politics is divided on ethnicity, nepotism, and patrimonial lines, amongst others,” according to University of Sierra Leone professor Dr. Memunatu Pratt. These issues have hampered previous elections.

Hoping to ensure free, fair, and non-violent elections in 2018, Search leads a consortium of seven national and international organizations. With the consortium, we conducted a nationwide survey asking citizens what policies are most important to them during the elections and beyond. Seven big issues rose to the surface, like candidates declaring their financial assets, transparency in campaign financing, women achieving greater political representation, and citizens sharing in the country’s natural resource wealth.

Armed with the will of the people, we worked with the consortium to craft a Citizen’s Manifesto declaring these aspirations. According to Dr. Pratt, the manifesto is a historic step for Sierra Leone, enabling “citizens to be drivers, while politicians are passengers in the country’s democracy.”

We recently launched the Manifesto with a national campaign, showing leaders across major religions and other divides are united behind these issues. We’re following it up with radio programs, TV debates, and community trainings to promote the Manifesto. Click here to watch the music video for our campaign.

We’re encouraging every person to have confidence their vote matters. We’re just getting started as we lead up to elections in March 2018.

It’s already making a difference.

After our national launch event, leaders from each major political party declared their support for the Manifesto during a TV debate. They both promised their Presidential candidates would publicly declare their assets before the elections. It’s a huge step forward for transparency.

In each place, we see the power of people working together with their government to improve their country.

But it only happens when ordinary people – like Essid and Thanuja – bravely reach out to their neighbors who are different, even ‘wrong.’ It may be a local government official they totally disagree with. It may be someone from another ethnicity or geography. But as they stumble and struggle to work together on issues that matter, their country becomes stronger.

You make this possible. We leverage your support at the critical moments, unlocking $16 for every $1 you give. Help us reach our goal of $260,000 by the end of 2017, unlocking over $4,000,000 for communities around the world. Change their future forever.

Will you help stop political violence, heal war trauma, and support countries as they bravely strive to move forward, together?

And will you follow Essid and Thanuja’s example? Will you bravely reach out, across seeming chasms of political ideology, background, and belief? You will also stumble and struggle. But we will make our countries, and the world, stronger.