I recently interviewed a young and energetic S2C Ambassador who believes in change, from the largest island in Africa, Madagascar.
Randriamalala Heriniaina is 26 years old, and has four siblings - three brothers and one sister. His family stays in the capital city of Madagascar, while he stays in the Alaotra Mangoro region in Moramanga Town, over 100 km from the capital. He has led a difficult life and I even began crying as he was narrating to his story. When he was eight years old, his parents divorced and he stayed with his mother and his siblings, where life was not easy for them. At the age of 10, he went to live with his uncle who is a journalist. He attended different schools in Madagascar because his uncle kept moving from one town to another.
His dad passed away in 2003 and this was very hard to face. "Even though I was not staying with him, I still remembered him, especially when I saw my sister because she really resembles him. May his soul rest in peace. My behaviour was different... I preferred staying alone, I didn’t like mingling. I was almost involving myself with bad things like drugs, because my life was full stress,” he said.
He had to drop out of University due to lack of finances, and look for job as a journalist at a radio station in the south eastern region of Madagascar. He went back to school in 2009 to study for his Masters degree in Social Communication.
He joined the Madagascar YMCA in 2009, as an intern, where he began to develop rapidly. He regrets not joining earlier, because his self-esteem was hugely improved, he gained many skills, and began playing basketball. “I love playing basketball because it gives me chance to relax my mind and meet many young people,” he said, showing me some of his photos of him playing with his pals at his YMCA.
Heriniaina gives great credit to the YMCA, and urges young people across the world to join the YMCA, because today he is an S2C Ambassador and the Change Agent is moving forward for the African Renaissance.
As an Ambassador, he has managed to advocate for rights of poor people in his country, and has came up with youth programmes because he is the Programme Coordinator. “I value young people because I know that with them we can get the change we want. This is why I try my level best to create more youth-related programmes,” he said.
Unemployment is a major challenge facing him as an Ambassador, because young people in his country are jobless, which creates an avenue for them to become involved in high-risk behaviour.
He also urges young peope to set goals in life and they should always work hard towards attaining those goals. He thanks his Mentor who is always there for him.
By Vuvuzela Khasindu, S2C Ambassador, Kenya YMCA
As Edward Stanley said, the Ghana YMCA believes that “those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness,”. As part of its activities, the Ghana YMCA annually organises fun games in the Greater Accra Region to promote healthy living amongst its members. This year’s games events were extended to include two other branches.
The Greater and Eastern Region YMCA’s first ever fun games was held at the Eastern Regional YMCA centre in Koforidua. Lots of planning had gone into the preparation of the games and a large number of members were expected to attend. The games were scheduled for the 26-28 October, 2012, under the theme “Promoting Healthy Sportsmanship through Games.” The fun games was organised with the aim of having fun and promoting friendship among the members of the two regions. Friday, 26 October witnessed the arrival of members from various branches of the YMCA in the Greater Accra and Eastern Regions. At about 2pm, buses full of members started trooping into the Koforidua centre. The Eastern Region had members from Mpraeso YMCA JHS, Asamankese, Mampong, Donkorkrom, Akim-Oda, and the host branch Koforidua. Greater Accra YMCA also had members from Tema, Madina, Sakaman, Mamprobi and TTC branches present.
In all there were five branches from Greater Accra and six from the Eastern Region. The registration process began right after arrival. Each member paid GH¢5 for a bed and for food. Organisers of the event believed that Friday night was going to be a solemn night because members were tired as a result of the long distances they had travelled. To their utmost surprise, the atmosphere at the Koforidua centre was electrified with gyama songs amidst dancing and merry making. Eventually it was time to welcome members. A short orientation was conducted with the aid of the programme secretary of Ghana YMCA, Mr. Samuel Asiedu and the National Youth President, Mr. Joel Arthur. A sumptuous dinner of jollof rice with chicken was served after the orientation. All was set and ready for the main event for the evening, a film. It was all fun that evening, one could clearly see that it was indeed the gathering of the Ys’. The night slowly drew on and members had to retire to their beds for rest.
A new morning, Saturday 27 October was welcomed by members with a keep fit exercise at 6:00 am. As part of YMCA‘s programmes a morning devotion took place which paved way for the beginning of the main event for the day. Members had some time to go about their own business for the morning. A cup of lipton was served with bread as breakfast. Although the opening ceremony for the day started with some hitches, the event gradually took its height. The ceremony was chaired by the Eastern Regional Secretary of YMCA, Daniel Ohene. In his speech he reiterated the mission of the YMCA to enhance the development of the mind, body and spirit of young people. He acknowledged that one of the ways of developing the body is through promoting a healthy sportsmanship through games. The time was up for the games to take place. Rules and regulations pertaining to the games were laid down. Although the event was to have fun it was somehow competitive since members from the Eastern Region were ready to prove to their counterpart from the Greater Accra Region that they had come to win.
There were various sporting disciplines of engagement such as volley ball, football, playing of cards, table tennis, oware, sack race, charade, lime & spoon and the 100/50m race. The balloon test, 3-legged race and the gari eating competition were the new additions to this year’s fun games. All these events were held in both the men and women categories and the fun and humour this generated was just awesome. The Greater Accra Regional Secretary, Mr. Reginald F. Crabbe marvelled members with his skills in the game of table tennis and football. It was actually a day to be remembered. An in-between break was given for members to have their lunch after the first half of the day’s activities. Members from both branches of the Y shared a sense of belonging which exhibited to others present that the YMCA is indeed a social organisation. All were eager to watch the much anticipated football match between the Greater Accra and Eastern Regional YMCAs. At the Koforidua Presby Park the football match started at exactly 4:00pm. With soccer teams consisting of members from both regions, the Greater Accra took the day with a win over their counter parts from the Eastern Region.
Ideally, the style and approach adopted at the event permitted some local branch members who had never had the opportunity to represent their branches in any event in previous years to have their first shot and this they did with much pleasure. One fascinating pick of the day was the gari eating competition. It was so obvious that participants had their stomachs filled with gari that they couldn’t take any more but for the sake of having a champion they had to keep on eating. This activity generated so much fun and to the admiration of members a winner emerged. A member from the technical training centre in Accra was the first out of the five members present. In an interview with him, he said “this is an easy win for me”. The balloon test competition which also saw our friends from the YCI competing was also hilarious.
The azonto dance and gyama competition was scheduled for the evening for a little relaxation and fun after supper. Members were ready with their chairs around the centre. The evening programme started with dancing alongside some azonto tunes. It was another side of attraction for members while participants contesting the best azonto dancer took to the stage with their dancing moves. One of the members from Tema branch was asked about his view on the event and he had this to say: “since I joined the YMCA, this is my first ever fun games I have attended. I had the opportunity of being a judge for the azonto dance competition and it was just wonderful. I hear there’s going to be a youth camp next year I cannot wait to be there because being here has really been fun for me”. A long day’s activity came to an end with members happy for attending the all fun games at koforidua.
Sunday, 28 October was the departure day. Sunday morning witnessed the closing ceremony of the 3 day fun games. Rice and stew was served in the morning to help sustain members to their various destinations. Greater Accra YMCA emerged the overall winner of the 2012 jointly held fun games hence they took the trophy. Pleasantries were shared by members with big hugs and byes and hoping to see each other at another gathering of the Ys.
In all, about 200 YMCA members from both regions attended this event. Members at the end had very nice things to say and urged organisers to repeat such programmes in the coming year. We began our journey back to our various destinations at 10:00am. Holistically, the aim of fostering a sense of belonging by promoting a healthy sportsmanship through games was achieved.
By Ghana YMCA
What many could have deemed was just an ordinary day changed when those concerned about their welfare on the street took it as a day to creat an opportunity to speak on behalf of children living on the street.
With the emergence of broken down homes, extinction of extended families, high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and the lack of quality education, the existence of street children will be difficult to eradicate.
The advocacy for the recognisance of the international street children started in the late 90s. However, most countries in the world have been very reluctant to put this day on the annual calendar.
The fears, according to some scholars, are that if this day is recognised on the annual calendar, it entails admittance that certain governments have failed to address the problem of street children and so their existence on the street must be accepted and treated as normal.
But the battle against this crisis has not been left to government alone. Individuals, companies, civil society organisations and many other non-governmental organisations concerned with the welfare of the children have been putting up measures to alleviate and reduce the number of children living on the street.
As such Zambia YMCA being an organisation whose mandate is to improve the welfare of the youths, has not been left out in the fight the trend of children being found on the street.
In its quest to do so, the Zambia YMCA has established a centre where most street children in Lusaka find themselves being provided with clothing, food, recreational activities, counseling and reintegration processes while those that show reformation are sent back to their families and schools.
In view of the above, the International Street Children Day provided a forum for Zambia YMCA to share some of the work the organisation is doing to ease the lives of children living on the street.
The day also was used as an opportunity to lobby and advocate for ideas that are meant for creating opportunities for the children, as well as find a lasting measure to ensure that no children are forced to live on the street.
Zambia YMCA Executive Director, Annie Ngwira, in her opening speech to officially launch the day’s celebrations observed that there is need to engage into partnership if the problem of street children in Zambia is to be addressed.
Annie said that currently Zambia does not have a specific policy on street children, despite having a child policy which aims at improving the general living standard and quality of life for the Zambia child in particular.
“Street children have continued to suffer untold injustices, while bearing the rough hardships of life on the street. This makes them very vulnerable and if nothing is done, the problem will be there longer than projected,” she added.
Meanwhile, one of the street children talked to said that the recognition of the International Street Children Day will pave the way for them (street children) to interact with relevant authorities and share some of the injustices and hardships that street children face.
“If we they talked to us directly like this on a day like this one, I believe they would appreciate the situations we face and empathise with us. It is only then that they may help find solutions and help us off the street. Some of the children found on the street are actually good children who can be nurtured and can grow up to make meaningful contribution to national development,” James Mwale, a youth living on the street stated.
By Brian Malambo, Zambia YMCA
If there is one important YMCA story I feel obliged to tell, it is the story of my personal development – my contact with the YMCA, my choice of taking a YMCA membership and getting involved with capacity building programs and the corresponding empowerment the YMCA has given me.
I came in contact with the YMCA some 12 years ago when I was still a student in middle school. Up to that time, I was a very shy boy with very low self-esteem and without the slightest idea of what I would like to become. Little did I know that I had potentials which could be developed to effect change in the lives of other young people. I recall quite well my very first attendance at a YMCA youth gathering. It was a youth meeting of the Harbel YMCA in May 2001. At the meeting I was asked to make a motion for the adoption of the agenda. It was quite an enormous task for me, having had no prior experience of participating in discussion at a meeting. I stood up, dumbfounded, not knowing what to say or how to begin. The presiding officer, knowing full well that I did not know what to say, taught me how to make a motion. She began somewhat like “I move that…” and I repeated after her. In a moment, I was able to make a motion without repeating someone else’s words, though with much stuttering – the kind usually associated with crowd, shyness and low self-confidence.
This began my most profound story of empowerment through the YMCA. From this moment forward, I began paying regular visits to the YMCA and participating in activities. Thanks to a classmate and other peers of mine who kept pulling me by my shoe strings to attend YMCA programs. Though I could prove reluctant and would attempt to shy away, my colleagues would not give up. They would come to my house and literally whisk me off to the YMCA where we studied together; played sports; debated different topics; set goals; identified role models and reference groups to associate with; and participate in discussions of wide range of issues – the future, education, career choices, etc.
Meanwhile I could feel myself developing. I started to excel in my studies. I don’t know how, but I could feel something inside me being awakened. My potential was now developing and taking shape! In no time I saw myself acting as recording secretary, a clerk and intern in the office of the Executive Director. Once a poor writer and lazy reader, I began writing letters and recording minutes, and doing reports. As time went on, I acquired typing skills (using a typewriter owned by the YMCA), and I began playing a more active leadership role.
Fast forward to 2008 when I was elected as national youth chairman of the YMCA of Liberia. My election as national youth chairman came with greater responsibilities and even still greater opportunities for personal development and empowerment. A once shy and seemingly hopeless fellow, I began representing the YMCA at many national youth forums. Many young people soon started to see me as a role model. My younger siblings all began to see me as a mentor and a guardian.
Once an introverted fellow without much prospect of providing leadership to other young people, I am now very hopeful, empowered and actively help to provide empowerment opportunities for other young people. I am leading efforts at different levels, using my voice and skills to call attention to the plight and needs of young people in Liberia. At the YMCA I am playing an active leadership role; at school my teachers and fellow students count me as a model worth referencing. Generally, among my peers, I am seen as an opinion leader in youth matters. The YMCA has given me skills and employment that enable me to earn and pay for my schooling and cost of living and partly cater to the needs of my younger siblings. Nothing could be more empowering. This is empowerment par excellence.
Africa is suffering from high graduate unemployment and many of its best students and researchers are flocking overseas. Could an African elite university turn this around?
Casual readers of optimistic headlines about Africa's high growth rates and record levels of foreign investment might be forgiven for thinking all is well on the continent - or at least that, with 'Africa Rising', all will be well before too long.
But many of the perspectives and figures underlying these simplistic narratives obscure the complex reality of rising inequality, success in only certain specific sectors, and - crucially - jobless growth.
Indeed, on the continent itself, there is a rising sense that Africa's growth isn't creating enough jobs for the millions entering the labour market each year. By some estimates, 50% of young people in South Africa, and 40% in Kenya and the DRC, are unemployed. In Nigeria, approximately 30 million youths are jobless. And the International Labour Organisation estimates that in 2012, 247 million workers in sub-Saharan Africa were in vulnerable employment.
Also worrying is the fact that having an education does not seem to help. In response to an advert for 100 drivers in Nigeria last year, the Dangote Group received 13,000 applicants including 8,460 with bachelor degrees, 704 with masters and 6 with PhDs. With Africa's youth population expected to double by 2045, this could prove to be a ticking time bomb; one only needs to look at the likes of Tunisia and Egypt for a forewarning of what a growing numbers of highly-educated unemployed young people can lead to.
Broadly-speaking, there are two ways of looking at the problem: 1) the economy's demand for labour isn't sufficiently strong to generate enough jobs because growth isn't fast enough and/or the sectors which are growing are not labour intensive enough; or 2) the supply of potential workers isn't appropriately educated and skilled for the jobs that could be available.
In reality, both are true. However, the latter can influence the former, and it is the latter to which we will now turn.
Seeking studies overseas
As high levels of unemployment amongst graduates suggests, African universities are churning out armies of job seekers rather than job creators. Higher education does not even appear to be correlated with higher employment in a number of places.
In Uganda, for example, 19% of Ugandan graduates are unemployed, compared to 7% of secondary school leavers. And in Nigeria, graduates are 5% less likely to be employed than those with just a basic education.
On top of this, many of Africa's best students are choosing to study abroad. According to figures from 2006, one out of every sixteen students in sub-Saharan Africa is enrolled outside the continent, and some countries even have more students abroad than at home. Nigerian students are estimated to spend $500 million annually in Western universities, a staggering 70% of the national university budget.
But it's not just students who have fled. Half the continent's researchers, according to estimates, are in Europe, driven abroad by poor facilities and salaries up to 20 times lower. Unsurprisingly then, Africa's output of research is amongst the lowest globally.
So what's gone wrong? To start with, investment has not kept up with the growth in student numbers. Between 1991 and 2006, the number of students in higher education exploded from 2.7 million to 9.3 million, a growth of 16% annually, but expenditure only grew by 6%; investment has remained at 20% of educational budgets.
Meanwhile, funding from international donors has increasingly concentrated on basic education, believing this is the best way to alleviate poverty. In the late-1980s, 17% of the World Bank's global educational spending used to be focused on higher education, but this had declined to 7% by the late-1990s.
This might suggest that the solution to Africa's higher education problems is simply more funding. This is undoubtedly important, but alone will not be sufficient. Giving campuses a fresh lick of paint and new computers isn't suddenly going to attract leading scholars and students ahead of the global competition.
Africa's Ivy League
Instead, a more radical shift is needed to give Africa's tertiary education a boost. One possibility is building an African 'Ivy League' institution.
The US is what it is today in large part because it advances the most revolutionary science and is home to ground-breaking firms. Institutions like Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been instrumental in this process by attracting the brightest from across the globe to solve the hardest problems.
If Africa had such an elite institution, it could potentially attract leading scholars, train students with the skills society needs, and help reverse the brain drain and capital flight. Perhaps most importantly, it could also act as a beacon of excellence for others colleges on the continent.
Many will no doubt question the wisdom of concentrating funds on one university when it could be disbursed amongst many, but the current system clearly does not seem to be working, and the benefit of elite institutions elsewhere - economically, socially and in raising the standard for education more broadly - is plain to see.
Stanford University's alumni, for example, have founded companies that generate more than $2.7 trillion in annual revenue - equivalent to the 10th largest economy in the world - while MIT's alumni have sales of $2 trillion. Crucially, these benefits are spread nationally and globally.
Furthermore, there are strong pragmatic reasons an African elite university should be appealing. At the moment, the most prestigious African journals are published in Oxford and Yale but surely it would be more practical to do research on Africa in Africa. Studies into tropical diseases, agriculture and public policy would surely be best conducted on the continent so academics can work with professionals at the coalface.
A worthy challenge
The battleground of the future will be fought on ideas and technology. Many countries are preparing for this by investing in institutions modelled on the world's best. Qatar invited and funded Georgetown and Cornell Universities to set up satellite campuses in Doha.
The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia opened in 2009 with a $10 billion endowment and has recruited its leaders from institutions such as the California Institute of Technology (currently the top-ranked university globally). China is investing $250 billion a year in building a world-class education system, and the rise of Asia has notably been accompanied by a corresponding rise to prominence of Asian universities. Meanwhile, in Africa, only one university - the University of Cape Town - is ranked in the world's top 200.
Creating an African elite university able to compete with the world's best will undoubtedly be immensely challenging. Many millions would need to be raised, and the funnelling of resources into one institution could necessarily mean less funding for other initiatives.
In fact, politically and financially, a regional institution may make more sense than a national or pan-continental one. Furthermore, given intense global competition, it is hardly a foregone conclusion that the best students and researchers would immediately rush to enrol. Building a gleaming campus is one thing, but building a reputation for excellence is necessarily a long-term project.
However, despite the challenges, this would be a project worth striving for. In a global marketplace where human capital is increasingly the differentiator, Africa needs its own incubator of ideas to compete and kick-start the reform of higher education. An elite university that Africans can be proud of could make a real sustainable difference to the continent and provide a lasting legacy for the future of Africa.
Read the original of this report on the ThinkAfricaPress site.
By Sharif Labo
Source: Think Africa Press
It is rarely explained how poverty is perpetuated, leading many to see it as natural and inevitable. If poverty is truly to be tackled, the logic of the debate must be changed.
What would you say if we told you that the biggest obstacle to eradicating poverty is the way we think about it? That the human mind and our common sense logic about how the world works is where the battle to end poverty must first be waged? How might that alter how we approach concerns about economic development, healthcare, education, women's rights, trade relations, and national debt?
We all know what "common sense" is supposed to mean. And it's a bit like 'taste', in that most of us think we have it. If there is anything that epitomises the concept of simple truth, common sense is it. In fact, Merriam-Webster describes it as "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts".
It is such a feather-light, seemingly benign little phrase. And yet it is a driver of almost all human problems in the world. This is because what we call 'common sense' informs everything we do - it is the water our minds swim in. And, like fish in water, we barely recognise it's there, let alone know how to account for it.
But contemporary research in cognitive science tells us that, rather than being a reliable and simple thing, common sense is a highly complex and largely invisible collection of subconscious mechanisms, intertwined assumptions, persistent bodily experiences and habitual perceptions layered up over our lives. It is shaped and influenced by the cultures we live in, and it can be faulty and misleading in all sorts of ways.
In fact, if there's one thing we can be sure of, it's that we can never assume clear or absolute - and certainly never 'simple' - common sense. Because we have human brains, we inevitably hold false information; are beholden to the perspective engendered by our own particular lives; and rely on stereotypes and archetypes to understand both ourselves and each other. This means, however well-educated or seemingly dispassionate we strive to be, we are always and forever prone to selective understanding and knee-jerk, irrational, and emotional judgments.
Swimming in common sense soup
So how does this apply to the practice of tackling inequality and poverty? Well, as with everything in life, there's a lot of 'common sense' employed around ideas of inequality and poverty by NGOs, foundations, businesses, government agencies, and the broader public. It is the implied logic we subconsciously employ to filter and process information. For example, it informs whether we understand poor people more as victims or perpetrators of their situation.
This 'common sense' is inevitably mixed with ideas of race, class, gender, nationality and any number of other variables, and inevitably affected by factors such as personal experience, age, educational background, social and cultural environment, and even mood.
What we usually call fact, data, or empirical evidence therefore exists as one type of seasoning - albeit a very important one - in a highly personalised soup of thought. So understanding the 'common sense' logic that exists in our minds - individually and collectively - around inequality and poverty is essential if we are to engender action that might tackle it successfully, not to mention sustainably.
Luckily for anti-poverty activists and groups, a lot is now known about the science of common sense. Linguists have studied it for decades, revealing the mental structures (called "frames") that organise our social experiences into webs of inferential logic and associated knowledge.
Psychologists have identified the emotional triggers that give rise to moral judgments, values and beliefs. Brain researchers have shown how perceptions arise as information processed in our heads. In other words, these frames - this 'common sense' - can be defined, studied, measured and affected in a rigorous and systematic manner to improve our effectiveness in real-world campaigns. What is needed now is for practitioners in the field to adopt this learning as a new standard, and put it into everyday practice.
Poor, passive, undifferentiated
To date, precious little work has been done to study common sense when it comes to inequality and poverty. We helped prepare the Finding Frames report (published in 2011) that looked at this question in the British context, and have commissioned some top-line research into global common sense for our global anti-poverty campaign /The Rules, but so much more needs to be done.
Anti-poverty advocates need to understand how it varies across geographies and in different cultural contexts if we are to build a coordinated, planetary-scale response to the structural causes of inequality.
What is clear from preliminary studies is that attitudes to poverty in the UK, and very possibly across the Global North, are not encouraging. When we looked at all the available data and did some linguistic analysis, we found a set of very troubling underlying assumptions. The soup, you might say, was off.
The whole study can be seen here, but in summary most people conceive of global poverty as an issue synonymous with "aid", which is seen as an act of charity. Charity, in turn, rests on the interaction between a powerful giver - be that an individual or a nation - and a grateful receiver. In this common sense, agency lies almost exclusively with the powerful givers; the grateful receivers are simply understood as poor, needy, and without control over their own destiny.
Further, in global settings, "the poor" are understood as an undifferentiated group without intrinsic strength, often referred to through the shorthand of "Africa", where nothing ever changes. It is in the photos of starving children in fund-raising advertisements; in pop concerts designed to raise a few million pounds or dollars; and in nonprofit charity shops where secondhand goods are bought and sold cheaply that this common sense of poverty is perpetuated.
This won't surprise most people who live in the Global South (another label that tends to cluster people into a category of anonymity). When you are on the receiving end of negative, judgemental or paternalistic frames, you can feel it. What might be more surprising is some of what we found when we looked more at the global picture.
The need for a creation story
One of the major discoveries from our research was that anti-poverty groups, both in North and South, rarely if ever explain where poverty comes from. This is a critical omission in the common sense of poverty.
It means there is a gaping hole in the logic that stands in the way of commensurate action to tackle it. In other words, because there is no commonly understood creation story, there is no clear, logically robust understanding of (a) what causes poverty, (b) who the principal actors are, and therefore (c) a solution that can be readily and widely accepted.
Every religion has a creation story. So does every tribe, nation and ideological camp. The creation story provides the original cause from which all else follows. For example, the Story of Original Sin from the Abrahamic religious tradition tells us where human fallibility came from - an apple plucked from the Tree of Knowledge by an unwitting woman in the Garden of Eden.
It offers a historic context from which all evil sprang forth onto the world in a moment of human weakness. And it does so with such memorable visual concreteness that most of us can recite the entire tale thousands of years after it was first written down.
Poverty, as we talk about it today, has no creation story. It lacks a commonly understood cause. And so there is no logical solution for how to end it. In other words, there is no mental architecture that helps us intuit and envision it ever being eradicated. To succeed at changing this common sense, anti-poverty groups will need to introduce a creation story
Shifting the narrative of poverty
So where does poverty come from? An in-depth answer to this question is not within the scope of this piece, but we published this article recently to bring attention to what we believe are structural and systemic causes of inequality - a set of financial rules introduced by an elite minority to game the global economy. We have recently launched a new organisation, /The Rules, to embody and promote this common sense in the operational setting of campaigns and collective actions.
Empowered with this creation story, we can mobilise around concrete goals that readily make sense within the context of the economy as a cooperative game. Employing this commonplace frame to make sense of our collective experience, we are able to tell a story about the unfair policy structures that were set up intentionally by a recognisable cohort of people to extract wealth and pool it in their personal coffers.
It was this common sense that fuelled the Occupy Movement in 2012, enabling it to spread from a tiny park in New York to the world stage in a few short weeks - the frame used was already widely shared in the minds of people everywhere. We are now deploying it as a narrative vehicle to deliver what we believe to be deep truths about the state of the world we are living in today.
By framing mass poverty as something that is created by human beings, what we do is fill a crucial hole in the logic for the common sense of poverty. And once this hole is filled, all sorts of new options become more concrete and apparent.
Immediately, logical targets arise; it becomes apparent where to invest resources to create meaningful change, and how others can get involved. In short, we gain an agenda for change that is bigger and more radical than small transfers of money from rich to poor and one that, crucially, works with the power of common sense.
Deliberate and mindful framing is essential to effective communication. We are at base camp of a mountain of knowledge that should be considered critical to anyone interested in shifting narratives and common sense, including around poverty. At /The Rules we are working to put this knowledge to use in what will be a long uphill battle against entrenched powers that benefit from the status quo. But before we can succeed against them, we have to deeply and thoroughly understand ourselves.
If we are to transform the political and economic systems that create and perpetuate poverty, we will have to change the logic of the debate. Doing this will require that we incorporate the best science of human understanding into our strategies for communication and engagement. The knowledge exists today for us to begin down this long road to cultural change that we believe to be a prerequisite for success.
Martin is the Global Campaigns Director at /The Rules and has worked extensively across private, public and NGO sector on government relations and engaging the public on global issues.
Joe is the Founder and Director of Cognitive Policy Works. Throughout the last decade Joe has sought to understand human values and behavior through the study of cognitive semantics and complex systems with the goal of helping build livable communities for the 21st Century.
Why Africa Needs Its Own Ivy League Institution
Africa is suffering from high graduate unemployment and many of its best students and researchers are flocking overseas. … see more »
Read the original of this report on the ThinkAfricaPress site.
By Martin Kirk and Joe Brewer
Photograph by bel0ved.
Source: Think Africa Press
President Paul Kagame has criticized western countries for pushing developing nations to hold elections and uphold democratic principles instead of focusing on programmes that improve the welfare of the citizens.
“Genuine democracy can never be equated to election cycles,” Kagame said while presenting a paper at the Tana Security Forum 2013 in Ethiopia over the weekend. It was organized to pay tribute to the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Addressing the gathering of prominent African delegates, President Kagame said that emphasizing “election cycles” is often done at the expense of sustainable socio-economic development.
He said that the west often tries to discredit Africa’s “development and governance options do not provide any suitable or better alternatives.”
He added: “Sustainable socio-economic development gives rise to greater democracy and political rights can best be exercised and enjoyed in a climate of growing prosperity and improved quality of life.” He said.
Kagame also said that the ordinary citizens should be engaged in “making and implementing choices that affect their lives”.
President Kagame described Late Meles Zenawi a colleague, a panafrican, a friend and a source of inspiration for many”.
President Kagame later joined a panel of eminent persons to discuss Late Zenawi’s legacy and vision on governance, economic development and self reliance.
Below is President Kagame’s full speech.
Below is Kagame’s speech in full.
I am happy to be here with you and to have this privilege to be part of a discussion on the legacy of a late colleague, Pan-African, friend, and a source of inspiration for many – the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
I am also happy to be here this time around as I missed the inaugural meeting.
For me, even more so for Ethiopians and many other Africans, talking about Meles’ contribution goes beyond the boundaries of Ethiopia and encompasses the whole continent of Africa and beyond.
He championed not only Ethiopia’s, but Africa’s cause in various international forums with passion and conviction, and to great effect.
We recall, for instance, his commitment, together with other colleagues some of whom are here present with us, to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). That dedication to Africa, among others, reflected his thinking on Africa’s development. NEPAD was, and still is, for many a collective vision for Africa’s renewal and progress. It is an expression of our common desire to construct a framework for development fully-owned and mainly driven by Africans.
We shall remember Meles Zenawi as a moderniser who dedicated his life to advancing the liberation and socio-economic transformation of his country and our continent. He was able to achieve a lot because he was a man of strong convictions. That strength derived from his ability to subject issues and situations to thorough study and analysis from which he was then able to chart a clear path to development based on domestic realities and home-grown solutions.
On the strength of that analysis, he challenged and rejected conventional development models where they were not suitable.
Today, as during his life, Meles Zenawi is associated with the concept of a developmental democratic state which he articulated as the most appropriate vehicle for development at our current level of economic evolution.
For Meles and other like-minded African leaders, in a developing country where both social and finance capital are very low, the state must play an active role in marshalling and directing development effort. It has to intervene in sourcing and directing investment to where it will have the greatest impact.
It is the only institution with the ability to build the physical and social infrastructure needed for the desired transformation of the country.
The state has the mandate and should empower its people, especially rural communities, to participate fully in the country’s political and economic activities. In so doing, solutions to national challenges are understood and owned by the people and become more effective and sustainable.
We have indeed experienced how this partnership with the people builds confidence for further achievements. This is the essence of people-centred, inclusive governance that Meles espoused and which many others in Africa would practice.
Equally, it is only the state that has the ability to mobilise international backing, both public and private, to support domestic choices and solutions to national challenges. Let me state, however, that this does not exclude working with others. It only means that the state has the primary responsibility and that cooperation is built on meaningful partnerships that recognise national choices.
Actual practice in a number of our countries has shown that it is an efficient state that is able to drive the development effort.
Success for this requires continuous building of its institutions that can guarantee efficient performance, stability and continuity of policies.
Meles had the intellectual ability to formulate and argue the case for a developmental democratic state, historical proof of its success elsewhere in the world and the boldness to push it through.
And so, for instance, he was able to institute land reforms to rationalise land use, increase agricultural production, raise levels of food security and empower rural populations and transform their economy as we know it.
Similarly, education has been able to play a transformational role through expansion, both in terms of infrastructure and access.
Perhaps the most visible area of growth has been in infrastructure development. Dams have been built for generating electricity so crucial for industrialisation and improved living standards. Roads within the country as well as linking Ethiopia to neighbouring countries have been built and a thriving construction industry exists.
However, he did not conceive or even prescribe the concept of a developmental state as the model for all nations for he knew only too well that none fits all situations. Nor is there ever a consensus about any one answer to an issue like this. Solutions are contextual. That is why other
Africans practice variations of the concept based on local conditions in their countries and may get equally good results.
It is evident to many of us that for a developing country, choices designed to accelerate development and growth are essentially politically driven and require the appropriate political set up for effective implementation. And that is to be provided by an actively and appropriately involved state.
This single-minded pursuit of a development agenda, as indeed Meles and others have done, has often led to a deliberate or ignorant misinterpretation of their intentions by some in the international community. And invariably, the question has been raised about whether the emphasis on development and the role of the state in it is not done at the expense of democracy and people’s rights.
For those who share Meles’ approach to development, there cannot be any contradiction between the two. They are actually mutually reinforcing – sustainable socio-economic development gives rise to greater democracy and political rights can best be exercised and enjoyed in a climate of growing prosperity and improved quality of life.
In any event, Meles believed, and other African leaders have a similar view, that democracy is built and grows and makes sense if it creates conditions for stability, continuity of policies, freedom, and the protection of gains that have already been made. Genuine democracy can never be equated to election cycles only as he emphasised. It has to do with the popular engagement of ordinary citizens in making and implementing choices that affect their lives – so true.
Successful governance systems are those that organically grow from local realities and reflect and respond to specific experiences. They do not have to be measured against arbitrary external standards, but can relate to them.
And in any case, those who disagree with or criticise our development and governance options do not provide any suitable or better alternatives. All they do is repeat abstract concepts like freedom and democracy as if doing that alone would improve the human condition. Yet for us, the evidence of results from our choices is the most significant thing.
I believe you have all seen how recent events in some parts of Africa have vindicated this view of democracy and development. We have witnessed the collapse of what had been touted as economic and democratic models on our continent, largely because they paid more attention to forms and symbols and ignored the substance. At the same time, we have seen the resilience of Ethiopia and other countries that have built their governance systems on the aspirations and participation of their people.
In the quest for rapid socio-economic transformation, it often becomes necessary to take tough, even unpopular decisions that work and stick to them. Meles did and held to them despite strong opposition. And for doing what was right, being true to his vision, values and principles, he earned the wrath of some, but more significantly, the admiration of many.
And as so often happens in such circumstances, he was vilified and called all sorts of names. But he stayed the course and soon the results of his choices were too obvious to ignore. Ironically, it seems earning such names is a measure of the success of one’s policies.
Only a man of unusual courage, strong conviction, uncompromising integrity and selflessness could put the widespread criticism in its proper place and focus on meeting the needs of his people. It needed a person of remarkable powers of persuasion and the ability to articulate his position passionately, logically and clearly to convince his compatriots, other Africans and even others from further afield that his policies were correct.
Meles was such a man and was able to drive the transformation of Ethiopia and become the inspiration of many young Africans across the continent. Ethiopia today and during his life has attained a level of development and self-reliance not achieved before.
The subject of this forum was close to Meles’ heart and it is indeed fitting that a conference on security should be held in Ethiopia. He recognised from the outset that no country could prosper in peace and security when all around it was turmoil. The security of all was essential to the stability and prosperity of all. And because of this, Meles spared no effort to mediate where there was dispute or to intervene militarily when that was the only option.
Today, this region is increasingly more peaceful, permitting its people to lead better and more dignified lives. Across Africa, social and economic progress is going on at a level and pace we have not experienced before. Africa’s voice can no longer be ignored.
Rwandans in particular have a special bond with the late Meles Zenawi and the people of Ethiopia forged by shared values, ideals, solidarity and path to sustainable prosperity. We will always remember with gratitude his insistence for the formation of a Panel of Eminent Persons to investigate the genocide in Rwanda.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
The vision of prosperity and unity the late Meles Zenawi had for his country and our continent, his dedication, commitment and personal sacrifice to its realisation and the policies he adopted to bring it about – all these are his legacy. The most fitting tribute we can pay him is to make Africa stronger, wealthier and an equal player on the world stage. And that we shall achieve if we are prepared to defend our right to make our own choices, deal with our own issues and stand up to all forms of injustice whatever their origin.
I thank you for your kind attention.
Source: News of Rwanda
Countries across Africa are experiencing unprecedented urban growth, presenting women with greater economic and social opportunities as well as greater risks to their safety and welfare.
Unlike their rural counterparts, women in urban areas are thought to enjoy greater social, economic, political opportunities and freedoms. In an editorial, the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said that urban women are able to “engage in paid employment outside the family, better access to services, lower fertility rates, and some relaxation of the rigid social values and norms that define women as subordinated to their husbands and fathers and to men generally”.
Even so, these women are likely to continue experiencing forms of gender discrimination. According to UN-HABITAT, “notable gender gaps in labour and employment, decent work, pay, tenure rights, access to and accumulation of assets, personal security and safety, and representation in formal structures of urban governance show that women are often the last to benefit from the prosperity of cities.”
UN-HABITAT estimates 40 percent of Africa’s estimated one billion people now live in cities and towns. About 51 percent of these people live in slums. Many governments struggle to maintain services and infrastructure - and women and girls are the most affected by these shortcomings.
Expensive public transport systems hinder women’s mobility, and many are forced to live in poor housing in the face of escalating living costs.
In her paper, Cities through a “gender lens”: a golden “urban age” for women in the global South?, Sylvia Chant of the London School of Economics said, “While women make significant contributions to their households, neighbourhoods and the city through their paid and unpaid labour, building and consolidating shelter and compensating for shortfalls in essential services and infrastructure, they face persistent inequalities in terms of access to decent work, physical and financial assets, mobility, personal safety and security, and representation in formal structures of urban governance.”
In an interview with IRIN, Cecilia Tacoli from IIED said, “The risks that women face with urbanization are related largely to inadequate infrastructure and services,” and the lack of personal safety and security.
Tacoli says women living in poor urban neighbourhoods have to compensate for a lack of services and infrastructure by working longer hours, “looking after children who are always ill as a result of inadequate water and sanitation” and making sure the “family is fed, while living in a home with very little space for cooking and storing food.”
Urban crime remains a serious problem for women. A 2011 study by Action Aid International noted that insecurity in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, “restricted women’s earnings, the sustainability of their small businesses, and thus their empowerment.”
According to Cathy Mcllwaine of the University of London, while urbanization could provide women with an opportunity to effectively cope with violence due to available institutional support and economic resources, often “social relations can be more fragmented, which can lead to greater incidence of violence, as can the pressures of urban living, such as poverty, engagement in certain types of occupation, poor-quality living conditions and the physical configuration of urban areas.”
And despite urban areas having better equipped health clinics and more doctors, the expense of such healthcare often puts it out of the reach of poor women.
Still, many women in urban areas manage to organize themselves into community savings groups, which help them save money to ensure their priorities are addressed.
The authors of the paper Community savings that mobilise federations, build women’s leadership and support slum upgrading say that “although the amount that each individual saves is modest, when aggregated in community savings funds, it is often large enough to attract external resources that allow support for larger-scale initiatives”.
The authors note: “Building on communities’ strengths rather than on their weaknesses helps develop a voice and identity, and these federations can negotiate with governments and other stakeholders to improve and upgrade their settlements.”
Source: Irin News
It all began sometimes back, a simple hobby that sees many young people send messages of love, mockery, incitements and fun to their friends through sms and social media posts and comments. I have been very touched at how young people have been using these simple tools and opportunities to bring change to our society. Afterall, as someone once said, "you cannot change the world before you change yourself".
Our countries face many challenges and many of us are just standing on top of the highest mountains blaming and waiting to see change come at the hands of someone else. In fact, many of us are the major cause of our own problems: we cause the problems of poverty, corruption, climate injustice, poverty, tribalism, HIV, injustice, war, human rights violence and many others. But, I can assure anyone reading this article that we can make things happen.
One press of a button in our digital world can cause a lot of positive and negative changes in our society. I was among the many who were sitting, waiting for change come, but after not seeing any change happen I realised that I am supposed to be part of bringing change.
Many of us in Africa received mobile phones very late, but I thank God for granting me a phone over the last six years. After that I could send my friends a positive message every day with the hope that it would change some minds in a positive way.
We need positivity. In 2007, Kenya went to war with itself. Many people died, and many of us have read or heard of their painful stories. On 4 March 2013, Kenya conducted new General Elections and the whole world was watching. We watched ourselves and eachother... Kenya is full of tribalism and people are ready to die and kill if it means protecting their tribe. Government, NGOs and many other partners were advocating for peace, day and night. They were using a lot of funds just to make sure the country does not repeat what happened in 2007.
But, for me, I had no funds to organise big road shows, big concerts, big media adverts... I just had my God and my phone. With a little money I could send 200 sms per day. Getting text messages is common amongst young people, but they do not always use them in the right manner. In January 2013, I increased it to 500 messages per day, and I could use other measures which I could afford... One of them was a small bag with the words "Vuvuzela for Peace" written on it which friends could walk around with. I kept sending messages to all the numbers in my phone. Some people even got tired of them, and they would send harsh messages back, but I never gave up. I remained focused. I wanted peace and unity among all Kenyans. I would even walk around with a plain T shirts and let people sign it with messages of peace. I made friends from all parts of the country and this really helped me. Some friends congratulated me for the good job I was doing, some went ahead and baptised me “PEACE”. I became so passionate in whatever I was doing, and I was not doing it because of the general elections, I just wanted people to live in peace. The message of peace became part of me and it has become part of many others. Now, there are over 200 people I speak with who sign peace at the end of their text messages. I became their role model.
After the elections there was a lot of tension, especially when the matter was taken to couart. During this time, their was a lot of hate speeches in Kenya between young people, especially on FaceBook. Many unfriended and blocked each other. I took advantage of this time to try and advocate for peace amongst them. I sent text messages to make them smile to their enemies because everybody was an enemy of the other. This simple tool worked. For example, I met me with a friend after I sent him some peaceful messages and this is what he said, "Maze Vuvu thanx kwa text yako, imenituliza ningejoin hawa wasee wanataka kuzusha" (Thank you Vuvu for your text, it made me calm down. I was going to join these guys who are planning to demonstrate).
Some said that this year Kenya had gone into a Digital Post Election Violence, which I can say was true. People were really fighting. But, thank God, we had other people of the same like mind, especially my friends. We were really working day and night to send text messages. Those who couldn’t withstand my messages and comments on FaceBook blocked me and others said I should never talk to them. As a Peace Ambassador, I was non-partisan and they hated me for this, but I still love them.
This active participation to spread positive messages has led to my two awards from the Africa Alliance of YMCAs and from the Church World Service.
Even after peaceful elections in Kenya, I have not stopped sending text messages and addressing peace in Kenya. I am still doing it, not only in Kenya but to the entire world. Several places need our support, and we can do it through social media.
Young people, I urge you to come out and address all the problems of our world by using what we have at hand. We should not be part of the problem, but should instead be part of the solution. We should be heading the solution committees in our communities! There is a lot you can do to make your neighbour smile 1000 times, I can assure you of this... even word of mouth is enough.
Thank you to the YMCA family all over the world for their support and the platforms they have created. Thanks to all who encouraged me in this project. God bless us all.
By Vuvuzela Jordan Kohasindu, Kenya YMCA
Lebogang Kgatitswe is a beautiful young and enthusiastic proud black woman who was born in South Africa. She was born in the North West province in a village called Molorwe. Born to a Christian family, she has five siblings, three brothers and two sisters. She is the youngest in the family. While her mother is still alive, her father passed on when she was thirteen-years-old. After the death of her father, her mother moved her to Soweto in Johannesburg, the City of Gold, to further her studies.
The move was difficult for the young village girl who was not used to the life and culture of Soweto. At the time she only knew how to speak and write Setswana, but she forced herself to learn other languages such as isiZulu and English. It was not easy for her to adjust to the livelihood of Soweto.
After finishing her Matric (Grade 12) she could not further her studies, as her mother was a domestic worker and her salary could not possibly pay for her daughters' tuition. Since suitable bursaries and student loans were not available to her at the time, her dream of attending university was shattered.
Despite having no qualifications, Lebogang perservered and found work as a Legal Secretary with Poopela Maake Attorneys. With the persistent dream of studying she began a correspondence course with Damelin College, studying a Paralegal Diploma.
At church she was invited by her friend, Refiloe Maruping, the receptionist at the Soweto YMCA, to come and visit her at the Y. Once there the General Secretary of the Soweto YMCA asked her to help with the preparation of the Christmas party for the children. In so doing she was happy to help out and found that she loved the YMCA work. The following year she asked to attend the Y-Zone workshop in Durban. While attending the workshop she founded it interesting working with children and found it motivated her to work as the Program Coordinator for the Soweto YMCA.
As the Program Coordinator she has successfully reached 425 children through YMCA programs such as Homework Assistance and Bible Studies.
Lebogang also attended numerous programmes whilst working as the Program Coordinator. She was chosen by the AAYMCA for the COP17 Climate Justice Campaign in 2011, and in 2012 she was selected to attend the Subject 2 Citizen (S2C) training as an Ambassador.
"The (Climate Justice) experience was a mind opener and a lifetime experience. Teaching others about how to take care of the environment they live in was great. S2C is a life changing philosophy that I needed in my life. It has transformed me to be a responsible person, to see life in a positive way... it has changed my mind set and now I am not blaming people for my failures. Now I believe that I can make a difference in my community, and also believe that if we stand together we can make a huge difference. Before I learned this philosophy I could not speak in public or express how I feel to anyone... this is what I used to struggle most with and I ended up losing good friends because I saw myself as inferior. S2C gave me the skills and confidence to speak to people, and interact with them. I don’t think there is an institute that can train you to such an extent. I thank the university of the AAYMCA for the transformation they gave me.”
“I love what I am doing, which is to give back to the community. It humbles me and gives me peace to put a smile in other people’s faces. That is what makes me wake up every day. I am the change that I want to be, I am a citizen, I will drive the change in Africa for the African Renaissance," says Lebogang of her learnings.
By Lebogang Kgatitswe, S2C Ambassador, SA YMCA