Getting rejected after pouring your soul into a project can be heartbreaking. This sentiment is echoed by the drafters of Chile’s new constitution, which was rejected by voters in September after an emotionally charged two-year preparation process.
In the fall of 2019, more than a million Chileans took to the streets, calling for change. As a result, the government and political parties committed to a constitutional overhaul, replacing the old constitution that was a leftover from military dictatorship.
The process was unique – voters were able to directly choose a constituent assembly of 155 people assigned with the task of drafting the new constitution. Gender parity was mandated and 17 seats were reserved for indigenous representatives.
The draft constitution that emerged was highly inclusive of indigenous groups, climate sensitive and gender empowering. But it failed to pass.
“It was a pioneering participatory democratic process” says Chilean-born Aleka Vial, founder of the Hypatia Foundation, a peace activist and facilitator of Plan for Peace’s transformational Mighty Heart program. “But maybe it was too much, too fast. What we understood is that this is a process and no part of the community can be left out.”
For Vial, this heartbreak also represented an opportunity. “We have to work with politicians because they hold the change,” she says.
She, along with three other women leaders of civil society groups in Chile, approached the group of constitution drafters and suggested a Mighty Heart course designed especially for them. That course is now mid-way through with 16 participants, all women Constituents and including from indigenous communities.
Aleka says that although the first session of the MH course was plagued with low spirits, she has noticed a change in attitude as it progresses. The participants’ work on their inner spirit and health is helping develop their outer work. Most importantly, it is giving them the courage to persevere in the face of adversity. “With each session, they are coming back to life – there is more hope, more activism,” she says.
When Aleka was asked what an ideal outcome from the MH course would look like, she responded in an unexpected way. She shunned thinking of outcomes as they represent a linear way of thinking. Instead, Aleka sees the course as a seed which will grow. “These are all movers in their communities,” she says.
“Change takes time.” Aleka pointed out that while our linear mind wants to have tasks completed by certain dates, being in a rush may not always lead to the best results. “When you invite people into a deeply cathartic social process, two years is not enough,” she says.
As Scilla Elworthy, founder of Business Plan for Peace and author of the Mighty Heart likes to remind us– inner work makes outer work more effective. Often, people forget to take time to work on themselves; but how can we help others if we don’t help ourselves first?