On Friday February 5, 2016, the Society of the Sacred Heart held its first side event during an ECOSOC Commission session entitled Social Transformation through Popular Education: Voices from the Field. It was a mixture of workshop and panel discussion, and an exciting step on our new journey of contributing to the United Nations from our lived experience in the provinces, in areas of our expertise: education.
Two skilled facilitators and practitioners of the Popular Education methodology, Sisters Imma De Stefanis, rscj and Reyna Gonzalez, rscj, from the Stuart Center in Washington DC, led us from praxis to theory and back to praxis. This engaging dynamic enabled participants to learn about the pillars and the dialectic methodology of this different educational model, Popular Education.
Three highly articulate women from ARISE, a grassroots organization on the Texas-Mexico border, discussed the praxis. Ms. Ramona Casas, the Coordinator of the Social Justice programs at ARISE, and two youth leaders, Ms. Maria Perez and Ms. Andrea Guzman, gave concrete examples of the application of the Popular Education methodology and described its empowering effects on the local population.
Our motivation for choosing Popular Education as the topic of our first statement and side event lies in our experience as RSCJ educators. Popular Education has been a very empowering methodology throughout Latin America, benefiting each age group. Moreover, with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underway which must be implemented at the local and national levels, it is our hope that Popular Education may play a critical role in mobilizing people on the ground to participate in that implementation process.
The Commission for Social Development meets annually for an eight day session in early February. Forty-six countries are elected by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to serve on this critical commission which deals with issues of poverty eradication, employment and decent work, as well as social inclusion. The theme of this year’s session was Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world. Following up on our – also first – written intervention entitled Children as agents of social transformation for a sustainable future (click here to read the article about this statement), our side event aimed at going into depth of how the popular education methodology is transformative and therefore a powerful instrument to include when rethinking and strengthening social development today.
Cecile Meijer, rscj