May 9 2024 GM

From TCU Wiki
Glitter Meetups

"Convite"- the Security and Self-care Communication Program for Indigenous, Black and Rural Communities in Colombia

Join us to talk about "Convite", an awareness project about self-care and collective care, focused especially on indigenous guards, cimarronas, and rural (campesinas) communities from southwestern Colombia, as well as those who defend the environment, territorial autonomy, and alternative communication. Convite provides information, tools, and resources for self-care, protection, and security in digital, physical, and psychosocial spaces, through workshops and the creation and circulation of sound postcards. Learn more about them here!

Nathaly Espitia Diaz is an experienced journalist and community communicator working with grassroots communities in the media, journalism, and communication field. Passionate about listening to others, learning through active participation, and leading with a focus on building trusted relationships and collective care. Also the creator of one of the first communication and resource projects focused on Digital Security for indigenous communities.

What is Glitter Meetup?

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the digital rights and Internet Freedom community at the IF Square on the TCU Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. It is a text-based chat where digital rights defenders can share regional and project updates, expertise, ask questions, and connect with others from all over the world! Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.


Could you introduce yourself to the people who are arriving at the IF channel?

Hola! I'm a sister, I'm a daughter, I'm a friend, a joyful and kind-hearted Cali native from a very warm land in Colombia. I'm of medium height. In Colombia, people say I'm blonde, but in the USA, they say I'm a brunette. I enjoy dancing and singing, although I sing poorly. I like doing radio and teaching others how to do it their way. I'm a bit reserved at first when I meet someone, but then I become more talkative, Dj sometimes. I'm a digital security trainer, communicator and journalist. Currently, I coordinate or facilitate Convite, mainly to secure resources so that it can reach more remote communities. If you know of any opportunities, let me know. I'm also an Internews program officer. I like lamps and hot chocolate with cheese.

Can you tell us how Convite started and what challenges you want to address by starting the project?
  • Convite started as an idea in 2017, just as I was leaving Karisma. There I had been training and supporting the construction of digital security resources for a few years, but none of them were designed for rural communities, much less indigenous or black communities. I have worked mostly with these communities and with my other job at that time, we were a lot in rural areas with these communities and when we had radio workshops, we saw digital security issues and we tried to share some resources but people didn't feel close to them or that they were designed for them, so they didn't end up embracing (incorporating) them. Which means that the contents have to have a cross-cultural or intercultural approach and understand the context to know what tools really work and also what pedagogical strategies allow these communities to acquire knowledge. Until 2019, when I had been a little over a year without being part of the community (this community here) someone sent a grant to an email list from Internews aimed at creating digital security content for indigenous communities and I felt it was a call from the universe saying you have to come back and you have to do this content.
  • Back in 2018, there was still no resource thought from that interculturality, all were resources designed by and for white communities, or mestizos and nothing localized, and with this I do not only refer to the language or context but to the culture. There I began to write convite designed with whatsapp chats with indigenous and afro friends helping me respond the questions, putting in the center also communication skills, and that the resources and workshops included cultural forms such as music, soundcapes and the knowledge that the community already had, such as the physical security of the guards.
  • As a today I still hear many trainers saying that there are too many resources Stop creating! and they still don't realize that there are many but all of them are thought by almost the same people and from an urban perspective. In Convite we had a commitment to co-design these resources with the communities and in that sense is what makes the project unique, this is not designed by me or by nois but by the sum of almost 30 people, about 10 more directly, those 10 people sit down to write decimas, chorus to the rhythm of rap and discuss why we must trust the digital security trainers.
  • We primarily use WhatsApp because the connection in these towns is quite challenging, and most people don't have regular access to the internet or only have prepaid plans, so using Signal or others is not realistic in their cases. Sometimes we communicate through phone calls using specific codes established beforehand.
Why do you think it is important to train in protection and security in digital to indigenous guards, cimarronas, and rural communities in Colombia? For people who are not familiar with the word, could you also explain a bit what are the "cimarronas" communities please?
  • The Cimarrona Guard is a mechanism for self-care and protection of ancestry, for the defense of territory, aimed at maintaining autonomy within the Community Councils of the Afro-Colombian people.The origin of the Cimarrona Guards dates back to the memory of the legendary town of San Basilio de Palenque, a district of the municipality of Mahates, located in the department of Bolívar, near the city of Cartagena. In the times of the glorious King Benkos Biohó and his wife, Queen Wiwa, they forged in the 17th century the feat of the First Free Town of Colonial America, a place away from the colonies where enslaved Africans escaped (cimarrones) to live in freedom, with autonomy and self-government.
Do convite's digital-security resources address the same issues and offer the same solutions (and with the same priorities) as everyone else's resources, but do it differently (with music; ...)? or are any of the issues/solutions/priorities different?
  • In some postcards, the concerns may be the same, but the solutions are different because everything depends on their context. For example, we can't tell them to use only Signal or Wire, or others because it's not realistic for what the communities can access. In that case, we opt for actionable best practices on the platforms they can access.
  • So the short answer is no. Additionally, we don't focus solely on digital security but also on mental health, physical security, and psychosocial support, which includes, in some cases, discussions regarding the spirituality of the communities. By discussions, I mean how they talk, for example, about how their wisdom regarding addressing physical security issues has come from dreams. This has been a very powerful tool for indigenous guards in Colombia, who have historically faced armed conflict in my country.
What are Convite main projects and what feedback have you received from the communities? For example, would you like to recommend some specific editions here in the chat?
  • So what digital security trainers do is listen to the context from which the doubt or problem arises and seek specific solutions, or for example, try to explain some practical concept or tool in less technical and more accessible and localized words that can be accessed in that territory.
  • The creation of audio postcards from collaborative co-creation spaces, such as workshops, where we use radio as a methodology, involves acquiring knowledge and generating questions and dialogues with different actors. It's an exchange between the guards and digital security trainers as equals; neither side owns the knowledge exclusively, both contribute equally, making the exchange horizontal. This is what communities value the most; they don't feel like outsiders are coming to teach them things, but rather they are part of the ones teaching and designing the postcards. They also appreciate being able to broadcast them on their radios, whether FM or speakers at "mingas," parties, or assemblies. They feel like they are part of the process, where their work is recognized and they are acknowledged as authors. Many times, they are the ones presenting the project. Last edition is my fav one
  • This is not a closed project, but rather an ongoing one. So, every time we meet or whenever there's a contingency space like the strike, we activate it. There's evidence of how communities use it and also request it through targeted workshops. That's the best proof that it works.
Donors often ask for "monitoring & evaluation." What kind of "evidence that the convite postcards work" has the donor(s) asked for?
  • Fortunately, the three donors we have worked with have been very flexible and understanding of the context. The evidence has mainly been the recording of the listening spaces of the postcards in community spaces such as "mingas," assemblies, and meetings. And some screenshots that demonstrate, with sensitive data removed, the use of certain channels already incorporated or best practices.
  • Shout to Internews, Brooklyn meeting and Digital Denfenders partnerships.
  • Also I am not a fan of MEL practices that ask for inmediatlly results, if a donros wants that we say hard pass
How many editions has Convite's podcast and how has it been growing?
  • So far, we have only built two phases over the course of six years because it takes us a long time to create dedicated and respectful spaces that allow for real feedback from the focus communities, which is what Convite does. The postcards, especially, are co-created, and the artistic process of creating a rhyme, a chorus, an image that reveals the community's identity, while also providing guidance on how to navigate safely and contribute to the mental health of these communities, is slow. This also makes it difficult to secure more resources because donors often want quick results, processes that last a year, and do not necessarily wait for events like strikes.
  • Our growth has been responding to these timelines and the needs of the communities. If we are called to a "minga" in Cauca or to a radio station, we respond. If there is a strike, we activate the network and call for reinforcements to conduct workshops. If someone needs to change a cell phone or take a break, we find which organization to reach out to and apply for a grant to make it happen. It requires time, patience, and coordination.
  • It's important to note that Convite is not our main source of income; it's what we do in our free time. However, the community knows they can rely on us for support. our postcards are also listened during indigenous "mingas" (collective work) over the speakers, especially making calls and proposals to consider their protection as indigenous and Afro women in terms of physical and spiritual protection. This is how Convite grows, according to the needs and desires of the "conviteros" (members of Convite).
What is the importance of the intersection of communication, art and culture in these technological and training processes or you case sharing of knowledge for protection?
  • We think there's a need to create resources in a transdisciplinary way to bring these technical knowledge to more people, to translate stiff technical language into other languages closer to the heart, to the pulse of the veins. Art helps us get closer and enjoy when we learn, but above all, it helps us let our guard down. There are very advanced concepts that are more difficult to make accessible to everyone, but there lies another challenge. I believe that culture and art can give us clues so that what we do can break out of this bubble in which we often find ourselves, where we know each other and share things among ourselves but they don't necessarily reach new communities.
Do you have some concept in mind that was difficult to make accessible and the project has been able to do it easier for or with the communities?
  • Yes, we used to explained the differences between Tor and VPNs or to explain. Anonymity, we do this from the beginning when people who are part of the project take on a plant name at the workshop location, and that becomes their name throughout the project. My name is Purple Basil. And most of them, when they see me on the street, greet me like that; many still don't know my real name.
Could you leave some contact for someone who may want to reach you out later about the project? and how the community could help you too?
  • Our email
  • If at any time you are in Colombia and are interested in learning about how to work with these communities in urban spaces, we can build bridges and establish agreements so that you can join us in a space where you can surely contribute with your knowledge.
  • If you have ideas about where we can knock on doors, send proposals, introduce ourselves, distribute the postcards, or if you have funds yourselves, we are all ears and open to building together.