Latin America Programme


Country: Nicaragua

In partnership with: The Nicaraguan Association for Community Integration (ASNIC)

Project name: Inclusive Education in Nicaragua: Achieving the Millennium Development Goals among the Disabled

Funded by: The Big Lottery Fund

Period: 2008 – 2011

In Nicaragua 10% of the population has some kind of disability, including 80 thousand children within schooling age. Only 10% of these children have been integrated into the regular educational system. Schools have inadequate physical and personnel capacity, or in many cases families themselves do not see that their children have the potential to go to school. The challenges arise on two fronts. One is the lack of financial resources needed to make schools physically accessible and to train and employ more teachers to increase capacity for the implementation of inclusive education. The other is a cultural barrier. Organisations and individuals need to work together to change social attitudes towards disability and to increase the parents' and the children's self esteem and confidence in the educational system.

The Nicaraguan government is committed to implementing inclusive education in all state schools. For example, the department for Special Education has been changed into the Department of Inclusive Education. However, much still needs to be done: the average classroom size ranges from 50-80 children per teacher; the schools have no ramps or audio visual equipment to facilitate learning; and teachers need to be trained in an inclusive approach to managing their classrooms.

CODA and ASNIC have engaged in a programme to increase the number of children with disabilities (CWD) enrolled in regular schools. This programme is supporting the implementation of inclusive education in the state-run public school system by taking a comprehensive approach that deals with the multiple causes of the problem, and involves, in participatory and coordinated action, the CWD, the community, the school, civil society and the government. Through project activities we raise awareness around the human rights of people with disabilities (PWD). We train parents, school teachers and members of organisations of PWD in the community and schools so that CWD can access education locally.

The training sessions with teachers and PWD organisations outline the international conventions ratified by the Nicaraguan government and the national legislation stating PWD's rights. Participants are also trained in ways to demand respect for these rights, and the training helps them identify the channels available to them, so that they can express their concerns and propose solutions or changes in practice.  Teachers are also trained in ways to become more inclusive in the classroom. We have also helped in facilitating the planning, coordination and implementation of media campaigns at national level. The campaigns have exposed the discrimination and challenges faced by PWD. Over 1600 PWDs and their families have been educated on their human rights. More than 300 workers and staff from organisations of people with disabilities have been trained in advocacy, and have formulated action plans and most importantly have started to work together, implementing joint actions in order to influence policy at the municipal, private sector and governmental levels; 140 teachers have been taught about the rights of children with disabilities via a series of seminars and training workshops. Some of the concrete results include:

•  "We face problems at the schools; the teachers don't know how to deal with children with different disabilities and refuse to accept them in the school. This has caused arguments between the parents and the teachers."

•  In Rivas, the DPOs presented a proposal to the departmental Ministry of Transport (MTI) demanding greater access to public transport for PWD.

•  In the Managua department, DPOs are working to get recognition for PWD rights established in the International Human Rights Convention. Some of the gains include:

•  Government ratification of the facultative protocol of the International Human Rights Convention for PWD

•   Implementation of a national census to identify and attend to PWD, which is being carried out with the solidarity of a Cuban medical brigade

•   An agreement with the Ministry of Transport that buses imported into the country for use in public urban areas will have disabled access

•   Presentation to the National Assembly of a proposal for reform to the law of equal opportunities for PWD which is in the process of being approved

•   Finally it has been possible to get the Ministry of Health to pass a resolution to add folic acid to rice that will reduce the incidence of children born with Spina Bifida.


Country: El Salvador

In partnership with: The Confederation of Unions of Salvadorian Workers (CSTS)

Project name: "One year after the approval of Convention 87 and 98 in El Salvador: Let's unionise the public sector'

Funded by: UNISON International Development Fund

Period: July 2008 - March 2010

The ratification of the conventions for the freedom to organise and unionise (Conventions 87, 98, 135 and 151 of the ILO) has been one of the permanent demands of the Salvadoran labour organisations since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992.  Since the CSTS was founded as a confederation in 2005, it has lobbied for the ratification of the ILO Conventions as well as for the reform of the Salvadoran Labour Code in order to enforce labour rights and to allow for the unionisation of the public sector.

The successive governments and the leaders of private enterprise have repeatedly failed to allow this to happen. Responding to pressure from the EU in the framework of negotiating the GPS+ agreements, the Salvadoran Government recognised, though only in principle, the right to organise unions in the Public Sector (August 2006).

To address these issues, CODA and the CSTS engaged in partnership to improve the conditions for organising, specifically within the public sector where organising in unions was only permitted in a handful of autonomous government dependencies but not in the public sector as a whole. A series of training workshops and lobbying and advocacy activities were organised and implemented to win the approval and the ratification of the Constitutional reforms for the effective application of ILO Convention 87 and thus the right to unionise in the public sector. This project provided resources to form a Trade of Municipal Employees and other unions for workers within a range of ministerial departments.

Several public meetings and fora were conducted nationwide. Leaders from unions and other social organisations gave inputs to a proposal for reform. This proposal was drafted and presented to the different political leaders during the presidential election campaign.

In May 2009, the reform to the Salvadorian Constitution was approved by the outgoing parliament.  In June 2009, the FMLN took power for the first time since the peace accords and during the first month of the new parliament the reform was ratified and later signed into law by President Mauricio Funes.

Subsequent to this success in constitutional reform, the project has made it possible for public sector workers to represent themselves and defend their labour rights in an organised, collective and coordinated manner. At the time of writing this report, the following unions had started the legalisation of their status or became formally legalised:

•  Municipal workers are now organised in two associations: ASTEMU which submitted its constitutional documents to the Ministry of Labour and currently has over 600 members in 20 city halls. In addition, ANTRAM, a second association of municipal workers is also awaiting legalisation as a union and is being supported by the CSTS.

•  The Union for Workers of the Ministry of Labour and Social Provision (SITRAMITPS) is fully legalised

•   In November 2009, the workers of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal constituted their in an extraordinary assembly and their (STRATSE) has initiated negotiations for a collective contract.

•   The Union of Workers of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the of Workers of the Centre for Technical Agricultural Assistance are now formed and legalised.

•   Finally, the of Treasury Ministry Workers is awaiting its legal recognition and the trade of the National Accounting Office has initiated the procedures to gain legal recognition.

Country: El Salvador

In partnership with: 23 different organisations (trade unions and community based organisations)

Project name: Capacity Building within Unions and Community Based Organisations: A solidarity-based Initiative to Strengthen Civil Society in El Salvador

Funded by: The Big Lottery Fund

Period: 2005 – 2008

This project has enabled 23 organisations (unions and community based organisations) to develop a comprehensive programme of capacity building (‘training their trainers’) following a popular education approach. As a result, over 4,200 community leaders have acquired skills to develop advocacy strategies around issues that affect their communities.


The organisations participating in the project were able to carry out lobbying activities on the following issues:

  • Legislative reform to delay the privatisation of water

Advocacy activities in parliament along with numerous social mobilisations were implemented to raise awareness and to campaign around the need to retain water as a public good.

  • Improving housing conditions and legalisation of land
The National Association of Agricultural Workers ANTA (one of the partner organisations in this project) is following up on various legislative initiatives for credits and titles to agricultural producers. So far more than 2,235 families have received their home and/or land titles. There is ongoing progress on this issue.
Country: Nicaragua

In partnership with: Coordinadora Civil (Civil Coordinator)

Project name: Monitoring the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) implementation in Nicaragua from a Civil Society Perspective at Municipal Level

Funded by: DFID

Period: 2003 – 2007

The project’s goal was to promote and institutionalise the participation of civil society organisations and local governments to follow-up, monitor and influence the Strengthened Strategy for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction and its relevant policies in 21 of the poorest municipalities in Nicaragua.

The project strategy included strengthening the stakeholders’ capacity to engage in policy monitoring, the promotion of citizen participation in local governance, the creation of a monitoring strategy and tools as well as the facilitation of forums to develop advocacy action and dialogue between citizens and local authorities.


  • In total, 4,242 community leaders, town councils members, local government officers and members of civil society organisations are now trained in the Legal Framework for Citizens Participation in Local and National Governance, the Laws and Policies related to Education and Health as well as in advocacy and social monitoring of policy implementation. The training activities were reinforced with intense communication actions. The community radio stations were also used to disseminate, through spots and radio programmes, the rights of citizens to participate in social audit and local governance.
  • A tool for the monitoring and follow up of public poverty reduction policies was developed. This monitoring tool was built to produce a diagnostic in the areas of education, health and funds transferred to municipalities in order to outline the real impact of policies around these issues upon the beneficiary population. The obtained data illustrates the gap between policy-making and reality.