What We Learned Facilitating a Security Workshop in Guatemala

In March, OutRight facilitated a safety and security workshop in Guatemala for LGBTIQ activists. The workshop covered:

  • General Security
  • Societal Security
  • Physical Security
  • Digital Security

This post is an introduction to a series of posts that will dive deeper into what we shared and learned during the workshop.

We started by facilitating a discussion with participants about the fluidity of security and it’s constant need to be reviewed (see graphic). This necessity for continual review and feedback meant we focused on helping participants develop security plans for their advocacy work.

Emphasis was put on the fact that a plan does not need not be complicated or costly. It can consist of basic precautions such as:

  • taking note of threats and risks
  • having a power pack to charge mobile phones
  • having an emergency contact list
  • writing the phone number to a lawyer on your arm

In addition, we covered the importance of always having a contingency plan, or Plan B, in case things do not work out as expected.

During one of the sessions, we explored the importance of a good public image in relation to security. When an organization has a good public image, they are less likely to be targeted by state and non-state actors. This is because, in most cases, there would be more backlash from the public if violence or harassment were to occur against the organization.

A point was made, during one of our breakouts, that most people nowadays get their information through public and online media. Therefore, ways of improving an organization’s public image through networking with media outlets was discussed.

Digital security was the highlight of discussions. Many of the activists were unaware of the danger of opening unknown documents or ways to protect their devices from hackers and the importance of end-to-end encryption messaging.

Following the workshop, we asked participants to complete a questionnaire about their thoughts on the content. A number of activists wrote of their desire to learn more about maintaining good mental health especially in stressful atmospheres. As a result, a section about mental health has been added to our presentations for the next OutRight security workshop.

In upcoming posts, we will share some of our materials as a starting point to consider developing preventative measures as part of your security plan relating to mental health, public image, and digital security.

Next week, we’ll start with “Steps to Developing a Basic Security Plan.” Till then, we invite you to share any feedback or questions with us via social media using #OutRight.