This is why we identify and support leaders on the ground who have earned the trust of their community and are already doing important work.
From running schools, to creating youth alliances to writing policy, our partners’ accomplishments are vast.
And their ideas are their own. It is our philosophy to trust and stand with them as they develop homegrown solutions to the challenges their communities are facing—not implement programs developed thousands of miles away by a group of people they’ve never met.
If you want results, there’s no substitute for the expertise of people on the ground.
In the communities where our partners live and work, the right to education is not guaranteed. That’s why they have spent years advocating for and facilitating access to schooling for children who, along with their parents, were forced by war, structural violence, or dire economic conditions to leave their homes and homelands.
In Thailand, for example, our partners are committed to ensuring that the children of some 4 million migrant workers can enroll in public schools or in a growing network of Migrant Learning Centers, established “for the people, by the people.” They have also worked tirelessly to bridge the gap between the two.View More
“Formal and migrant education systems should be connected, so that these children can continue their education and be recognized wherever they go,” the founder of one such school said.
We know that system change does not happen overnight, and it must be led by the people who understand it best. That’s why Partners Asia’s role has been to provide long-term, flexible funding for education—the type of support that builds trust and allows grassroots organizations the security to grow in line with the needs they identify on the ground. Through these relationships, we have witnessed our partners establish remarkable initiatives, such as:
- A respected pre-school serving a refugee community
- Academic programs equipping marginalized youth with the skills to both pursue higher education and to work for change
- Comprehensive teacher trainings for instructors and recent graduates, to bring creative, proven pedagogy to locally-led classrooms
- Professional working groups to advocate for inclusive policy making on education
When they have access to adequate resources, our partners have taught us how one school can expand into four, how a set of lesson plans can be transformed into a multilingual shared curriculum, and how a team of young teachers can confidently present policy recommendations to benefit the next generation.
In areas of protracted conflict, it can be incredibly difficult for youth to find a safe space where they can learn how to work for change in their communities.
Our veteran partners create that space in unlikely places—on borders and in villages—bringing together young leaders for trainings, collaboration, and mentorship opportunities. Their work starts from the belief that the next generation of local leaders is already among us: what they need are skills and opportunities to build from the groundwork laid by their predecessors and achieve new milestones.View More
“As conflict continues, and even escalates, it is very important that marginalized young people take on a leadership role in building peace and bringing justice,” says one of our longtime partners who runs a highly respected youth training program.
At Partners Asia, we do not appoint leaders to a context that is not our own in order to implement our vision. Instead, we see it as our responsibility to ensure that people who have been identified and chosen by their communities to lead are met with support and resources to sustain their work over the long term. We have stood with our partners as they:
- Train youth and hire alumni to give promising individuals a place to grow
- Offer practical support and solidarity to other grassroots leaders during times of crisis
- Strengthen community voices so that they reach international levels through advocacy
When you lead conscientiously, there are no shortcuts. That’s why we support programming whose leadership is defined by a legacy of empowering others, and motivated by a love of the people they serve.
Too often, homegrown solutions to community-based problems are ignored by international donors. Instead, in the name of “development,” they have been known to implement strategies designed by people who have never lived in the conditions in question.
Local solutions form the core of our partners’ work, and it is what we support. “Development” is the opportunity for growth for all members of a community, in ways that are determined and prioritized by that community. It involves a range of projects and activities focused on cultural preservation, access to education and health services, conservation of the environment, livelihoods and rights protection.View More
One partner explained how she and a small group of women initially invested in their community by starting with its youngest members, describing how an early education initiative that they started had brought together parents, volunteers, locals, and children for the benefit of everyone.
“We have gained a strong reputation in the community for preserving the culture of our people. We’ve seen children grow up and succeed,” she reflected.
Who is best situated to respond to all aspects of a crisis—to assess immediate needs, to confront the past, and to plan for the future? We believe that it is the people who are living through these circumstances. We commend our partners working in grassroots development for:
- Engaging youth from persecuted minorities in celebrations of their heritage and language
- Teaching community organizing techniques rooted in local practices
- Improving access to health care and nutrition
- Building homes and schools using natural, sustainable materials, and collective efforts
Those most affected by injustice must be at the forefront of the struggle for building a better future. Change that starts in and grows from communities is meaningful and lasting, and it is the kind of development we are proud to be part of.
No one is free if more than half of us are not. Gender-based violence and discrimination are still prevalent in our communities and in those where our partners work. Together, we are committed to ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. With this in mind, our partners mentor emerging leaders, empowering them to take part in community organizing, movement building, and policymaking aimed at breaking down these barriers.
It’s not easy, nor is it always welcome. One partner, on northern Thailand’s border with Laos and Myanmar, works with children and youth from six different ethnic groups to safeguard their physical health and sexual wellbeing.View More
“Reproductive health is a part of everyone’s life, but it is still a sensitive topic here. In our district, we are the only organization working on this issue,” they told us.
Partners Asia’s approach to advancing gender equality is to support local organizations working with stateless, indigenous, and ethnic minority women and LGBTQI youth. Through them, we see how gender is connected to struggles for labor rights, access to healthcare, and citizenship in Southeast Asia.
Our partners have transformed this support into:
- The development of culturally sensitive trainings to address stigmas and communication barriers around taboo topics
- Activities contributing to a feminist movement rooted in local leadership
- Workshops on public speaking, research, and facilitation for youth from disenfranchised communities to confront intersectional issues of injustice
We are committed to standing in solidarity with and expanding our relationships with women- and LGBTQI-led community development initiatives that are leading the way to a more just and inclusive world.