Vendors and hawkers - carrying placards that read: "Another world is possible for street vendors in poor and rich cities"- joined them. And they too, chanted peace songs. Children carried placards condemning forced marriages and female genital mutilation. Andreas Loebell, a participant from Switzerland, said: "I hope that this social forum will make a difference where most of our problems might be addressed."We were told to come for this celebration because it is a celebration to end poverty," Edward Njeru, driver of a tuktuk (a three-wheel vehicle used as a taxi in urban areas), said about the World Social Forum (WSF). "I hope this poverty really ends." Njeru, who takes home between 14 to 43 dollars per month, barely enough to meet his needs, was with about 30 of his colleagues who paraded their colourful tuktuks in Uhuru Park, where the WSF opening ceremony took place.Besides the tuktuks, bicycle taxi drivers displayed their "boda bodas", which have become a popular means of transport in many parts of the country. The parades of tuktuks and boda bodas reflected the theme for the seventh annual WSF, "Peoples' struggles, peoples' alternatives", whereby people address poverty in their own small ways.
As the world grapples with the HIV/AIDS challenge, several initiatives seeking to address the problem have emerged in different parts of the world. In Brazil, poems have been used on condoms to inform people of the dangers of HIV/AIDS. The "poetic condom" project was the brainchild of Ramos Filho, a poet and law professor from Itajai district in Santa Catarina, Brazil. He was prompted by the high rate of HIV/AIDS in the region. "The high cases were an alert that something needed to be done urgently. I started distributing condoms with poetic messages to the whole of Brazil with the objective of giving information to people," Filho told IPS at the park, where he was distributing the condoms. His project, he said, had led to increased awareness and behavioural change among people. Filho's initiative fits well into the WSF slogan, "another world is possible", as well as this year's theme: peoples' struggles, peoples' alternatives.
Indeed, the WSF 2007 organising committee hopes that more such initiatives will emerge from the forum. "We expect that people will interrogate the current world as it is and make alternatives for creating a better world," Oduor Ong'wen, a member of the committee, told IPS.More than 150,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the WSF, January 20-25, in which other key issues including housing, environment, trade, unemployment, corruption, governance and human rights will be discussed. The WSF is an annual gathering of social activists seeking to chart out ways of countering the dominance of the rich western nations. Usually, this meet of tens of thousands of activists takes place in January, as a counterweight to the World Economic Forum, an annual meeting of powerful business and political élites held in the Swiss alpine resort of Davos.
Text: Compilation of articles by Edith Fortunate and Lucianne Limo (East African Standard, Kenya) and Joyce Mulama (Inter Press Service - IPS)