The young women we work with don’t suffer from a lack of words or stories. They have much to tell and a great need to be listened to. Often it’s hard for them to focus on just one idea or choose few words to describe a feeling or an experience. So, we experimented with Haiku, a very simple style of Japanese poetry. It only has three lines; the first has 5 syllables, the second has 7 and the third has 5.
Here are three haikus about love by one of the young women. [Note: in translating the poems to English, they lost their original number of syllables. To see the original poems, click here.]
I’m not hungry
but I have a strong thirst
for you my love.
an ugly and hateful man
but I love you.
I like you a lot
because you are like
a sweet apple.
It’s been a few months since we’ve updated the cuentame blog, but we have exciting news. In February we published the first book of poems and reflections written by the incarcerated girls that have participated in the writing process! The book, ‘Duras Lecciones: Poemas y reflexiones de jovenes privadas de libertad en El Salvador’ [Tough Lessons: Poems and reflections of incarcerated youth in El Salvador] has 19 authors and 49 poems and reflections. 300 copies were published by FESPAD Editions, and have been distributed among the authors, their families, the juvenile justice system, and organizations that work with youth and in prisons around the country.
In March, we held an event to present the book at the girl’s detention center. Representatives from many sectors of the juvenile justice system were present, including the directors of the boy’s detention centers, judges from the juvenile courts and the Juvenile Justice Unit of the Supreme Court, as well as representatives from the National Board of Youth of the national government, and civil society organizations that work with at risk youth and in prisons. Most importantly, all of the girls currently in the detention center were present, including those who are awaiting their sentence and hadn’t participated in the project. After words by functionaries and the facilitators of the writing project, seven girls came forward to read their poems. The reading of ‘Your Terrible Daughter’ had the entire audience in tears and achieved one of the main goals of the book: the humanization of the juvenile justice system and tearing down the stereotype that incarcerated youth are simply criminals that don’t deserve second chances. As we listen to and read their words, we find pieces of ourselves in their experiences, and realize that we are not so different after all. We have a collective responsibility to participate in healing processes in our own communities and support rehabilitation efforts.
The publication of ‘Tough Lessons’ is a great source of pride for the young women that were brave enough to share their experiences and open wounds from the past. The book immediately became an inspiration for girls that hadn’t participated in the writing project and for young men in detention that are eager to start their own writing. We are very excited that so many more youth are eager to write and encouraged that this initiative of self expression and healing is growing!
Right now, ‘Tough Lessons’ is only available in Spanish, but our goal in the next few weeks is to translate it to English and have a copy available online as a PDF so that a greater audience can read it, reflect on their words, and use it as a tool for work with youth. As soon as it is ready, we’ll post the link.
Thank you for your continuing support!
Press Release and PDF of ‘Duras Lecciones’ in Spanish