It was hot, humid and sweaty and the airline had lost my luggage. After filling out a few bureaucratic forms with a smiling Zambian face, I joined the bus of strangers – new recruits to Idasa’s Community of Practice for African communications practitioners who write about HIV/AIDS. We were to spend two days together, at the start of a 4 year relationship. The bus journey to the hotel was peppered with polite, get-to-know-you conversations…
Two days later, many hours of sharing stories and exploring how to build citizen action through media and communication work, we were no longer strangers. The group sessions promoted discussion and deliberation about the role of citizens, and the role of journalists – and how these two overlapped for people in the room. Questions shot around the room about how to wear two different hats, how to manage conflicts of interest, how to avoid being used for personal agendas, and make sure your journalistic skills are not exploited.
The discussions were thought provoking and relationships formed in a way that will encourage deeper engagement over the next four years. The workshop included a session on how we should keep talking to each other, especially in between meetings, and for the duration of the 4 years. Following their suggestions, a social networking hub was set up for participants to keep talking – and a googlemap was also used to plot participants work and partnerships across the continent. See some of the interviews on video here.
– Samantha Fleming was an Idasa participant at the launch of Idasa’s Community of Practice –
More public and less experts: how do we re-connect the work of journalists with the work of citizens?
– by Marietjie Myburg –
For the last 10 years I have been working in the field of HIV and AIDS Communication. During this time, I have watched in frustration what should have been a conversation between citizens and people with power to change things (policy makers, planners), but was actually a conversation between the well-intentioned funders and (often opportunistic) politicians and bureaucrats.
I have watched how, instead of challenging the course of this conversation, journalists become the channels for UNAIDS, USAID and Bill and Melinda Gates to talk to and on behalf of citizens to Departments of Health and AIDS Councils and Presidents and celebrities with an attitude which Donaldo Macedo aptly describes in his foreword to Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of Freedom: “There is no need to hear your voice when I can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself (Freire, 2001:xxvi)”.
Who is responsible for development in Africa?
This is the question I’m mulling over, after a presentation by Dr Dambisa Moyo, author of Dead Aid. The book has caused quite some controversy, not least among NGOs and recipients of the aid that Moyo critiques.
Foreign aid is a complex subject and one that has many vested interests. Any discussion on the future of aid is likely to be heated and emotional. There are those of us whose very livelihoods depend on it, for without that donor money, we wouldn’t be able to pay our own bills. And there are those of us lefties who struggle with the politics of the author – neo-liberal, economic focus, seemingly aligned to the interests of global capital. Her work experience is at the World Bank (seen by some as an arrogant manipulative International Financial Institution (IFI)) and Goldman Sachs. Her background at these institutions dents her credibility in South African development circles, where your politics and credentials are judged before you’ve opened your mouth.
Some people view her ideas with skepticism and see her as an emissary from yet another global institution that is intent on imposing their own agenda. Moyo contests this vocally, saying she is born and bred Zambian and has strong roots in the heart of Africa. For most of us, despite any critique, it is fabulous to have an African academic raising these issues for debate. Continue reading