Monday, 22 January 2007

KENYA: A CULTURAL MIX AS WORLD SOCIAL FORUM OPENS

Nairobi (Kenya) - It was pomp and colour, dance and measured excitement, agitation and powerful speeches as the seventh edition of the World Social Forum (WSF) officially opened in Nairobi on Saturday. At Uhuru Park, it was a cultural mix to behold as participants from different parts of the world tried to gyrate to a remarkably varied mix of music that boomed from powerful sound systems. It was partly entertainment, according to the participants, but it was also a powerful way of expression. "We are aiming for a world in which all people - white and black, rich and poor - shall be seen as equal in the eyes of God. A society in which man shall not be exploited by fellow man," said Kenneth Kaunda, the former president of Zambia.The Uhuru park event followed a march from Kibera slum, about seven kilometres southwest of Nairobi. The slum is Kenya's and East Africa's largest, with a population of over 700,000 people. Here, the delegates came face to face with poverty: mud huts, no sewerage system, choking stench from the streams of open sewers, no roads, no services of any kind.

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)

(Read interview with Wangari Maathai on the WSF 2007 here)
Nairobi (Kenya) - It was pomp and colour, dance and measured excitement, agitation and powerful speeches as the seventh edition of the World Social Forum (WSF) officially opened in Nairobi on Saturday. At Uhuru Park, it was a cultural mix to behold as participants from different parts of the world tried to gyrate to a remarkably varied mix of music that boomed from powerful sound systems. It was partly entertainment, according to the participants, but it was also a powerful way of expression. "We are aiming for a world in which all people - white and black, rich and poor - shall be seen as equal in the eyes of God. A society in which man shall not be exploited by fellow man," said Kenneth Kaunda, the former president of Zambia.The Uhuru park event followed a march from Kibera slum, about seven kilometres southwest of Nairobi. The slum is Kenya's and East Africa's largest, with a population of over 700,000 people. Here, the delegates came face to face with poverty: mud huts, no sewerage system, choking stench from the streams of open sewers, no roads, no services of any kind.

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)

(Read interview with Wangari Maathai on the WSF 2007 here)

4 comments:

Joshua said...

iWhile the initial goal of WSF is remarkable and positive, it is hard to see how these ideas are getting translated into action. I think the big thing is watching what gets done after the event. If people go home and continue with their day to day lives, then nothing is achieved. The forum has to craft new ways of combating poverty that are actually getting executed after the event and being adopted in different regions. Then we are working at solving the problems associated with poverty, poor health and the negative effects of capitalism.

Koluki said...

Thanks for your comment Joshua and welcome to this space!
I totally agree with you. Let's hope that at least the theme of this year's WSF "peoples problems, peoples alternatives" makes a difference in the way poverty and other social problems are tackled. It seems to point its attention to 'micro' rather than the always dominant 'macro' approaches to poverty. If this focus is backed-up by adequately monitored and sustained micro-funding for small business growth, area-based regeneration and social enterprise (as it is still being done in some areas of the rich West, such as East London...) then we might see some improvements on the ground in the aftermath of this "talk show". If not... then we must keep trying, because "we never fail until we stop trying"!
Thanks again and congrats on your brilliant African Path!

Joshua said...

Thanks. I have a second updated post of the WSF and guess who leads off? Well, you just have to see for yourself. Your article is quite marvelous.

Koluki said...

You're very kind Joshua. But... please refer to my comment on You're very kind Joshua. But... please refer to my comment on your post.
Cheers!