Giovanna Larco, Peru
GLOBAL – Profile of the educator in Peru: Giovanna Larco – PLADES
Giovanna Larco has conducted education programs for workers in Peru and other Latin-American countries. She has worked at PLADES (Programa Laboral de Desarrollo / Labour Development Program) since 1991 where she is the Executive Director of that organization as well as the Vice-President of IFWEA.
Can you briefly tell us, for our readers, about the work of PLADES?
PLADES is an NGO that develops programs and projects with the goal of improving the labour rights of workers and worker organizations in Peru and Latin America.
One of our areas of focus has been the advance of workers through agreements with trade unions in Peru and other countries. We have provided training in various topics associated with labour rights and the management of unions in the global environment.
Could you tell us a bit about your background and education?
From a young age I became interested in education. This led me to studying education and social sciences at university. Later on, I became interested in distance education programs and I specialised in distance education for adults.
How did you become involved in workers education and activism?
From the time I was at university, I began supporting the formation of trade unions as part of my political and social activism. Then, I started working as a teacher and I was dismissed for being a part of the teacher’s trade union. While I was unemployed, I worked on supporting trade unions as a volunteer. It is from this experience that a group of us decided to establish PLADES in 1991.
What have your roles been within the organization since then?
Well, in the last 30 years I have done various things at PLADES. What I can highlight is the work done through the distance platform. We were able to roll out a program for developing trade union leaders in various countries of Latin America. In that program, which was conducted between 2001 and 2007, we were able to train more than 3,000 trade unionists in seven countries. This was done in partnership with regional and national trade unions. Getting that program rolling was a great feat and what we learnt in that experience was of great value for other teaching experiences with workers.
In the years after, I have focused on the design and execution of various projects to promote better labour laws and public policies to enforce the law. I have also been a representative of REDLAT. I have also developed various courses on the state of workers in Peru. The content of these courses has been used by trade unions for their various action plans.
Have you seen adult and worker education develop, and if so, how? What is the impact that can be observed?
What we have observed in Peru and adjacent countries is that the most significant developments in adult and worker education have taken place over the last decade. In the past few years there has been a decrease in the available funding for trade union education. In Chile and Uruguay, the governments have supplemented financially for this loss and they have also supported worker education. In spite of this, some international federations have developed content and methodology that is innovative. But the needs are still great and the resources are scarce.
What would you say are the main challenges that worker education is faced with in Peru?
There are many challenges including the need to have unified efforts to develop trade union education. At the moment these are dispersed in small initiatives. We also require a concerted search for resources because the big majority of the unions do not possess the resources to intervene in the training of their leaders. We are also faced with the challenge of reaching young workers, men and women, who are the most vulnerable and they do not have the facilities to participate in training.
Finally, we also have to strengthen the partnerships with international partners. This can be done virtually, and in this way, we can break the national boundaries. This is important because in this way we can exchange experiences and generate new learning.
During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, have you manged to work online? And will this influence future ways of organizing?
At PLADES we have always challenged ourselves to provide education using new technology. For this reason, we have been more prepared and able to adapt to the current COVID-19 situation.
We are aware that as a result of this pandemic the way we organize and conduct work will change and working from home will be the primary way. In the same way, we know that all the organizations and networks are going to drive their work through online communication.
Are you working with other similar organizations in Latin America?
At PLADES we have always worked with NGOs working within the labour sector and affiliated with trade unions in Latin America. We work with them through the network of The Global Network (La Red Global) or REDLAT, and we have also participated in training and have completed various courses. Some of our main partners are ENS in Colombia, CENDA in Chile, ICUDU in Uruguay and IOS in Brazil.
How important are global solidarity networks and organizations like IFWEA?
What makes global networks like IFWEA very important is that they provide a sense of the global education baseline and they facilitate knowledge exchange. New technologies have supported these interactions, even though we still have many challenges to overcome. One of the challenges is the language and access to new technologies.
What message would you like to give our educators in the global community?
I would like to share that right now is when we need to work more for the wellbeing of all the workers in the world. This crisis we are going through is very heavy, and it should propel us to be innovative and stretch our ties of collaboration.