Originally posted on the blog of Absolute Travel.
On a recent one week study tour sponsored by American Jewish World Service (AJWS), with the assistance of Absolute Travel, I became fully immersed in the magical world of Senegal—its people, its culture and its struggles to forge peace and overcome poverty. Read More
Posted in Human Rights, Letters from the Field
Tagged absolute travel, Aminata Toure, Kassoumaye FM, Molly Melching, PFPC, Senegal, study tour, Study Tours, Tostan, USOFORAL, World Education Service, Y’en Amarre
President Obama was in Senegal last week, the first stop on his three-country visit to Africa. The trip kicks off Obama’s efforts to deepen the United States’ engagement in Africa focusing on trade and investment, democratic institution-building and economic opportunities for young people. The president is traveling with a team of economic advisors and representatives from the private sector and will be speaking with members of civil society and judicial leaders.
Why Senegal Was Chosen
The US ambassador to Senegal affirmed that Senegal was selected because of its political stability and democratic record. Indeed, the Senegalese people are the pride of West Africa because last year they peacefully elected as president an opposition member in a highly contested presidential race. The country plays an important diplomatic role in francophone Africa. It is a large contributor of troops to international peacekeeping missions and a strong US ally in fighting transnational security threats including terrorism, drug trafficking and maritime piracy.
We were thrilled to see Senegal host President Obama and it was a moment to celebrate his homecoming to the land of Teranga (hospitality). Read More
On Sunday, the Senegalese people were the pride of West Africa. They went to the polls in a run-off election and peacefully elected opposition leader Macky Sall over the incumbent president, Abdoulaye Wade. Wade was running for a controversial third term in office even though youth unemployment, high commodity prices and a broken promise of real change had marred his presidency.
People all over Senegal’s Casamance region hope that the result of this election will bring an end to the 30-year conflict between successive governments and a separatist rebel movement. Fortunately, some of the groundwork has already been laid by a new coalition of women-led organizations, Plateforme des Femmes pour la Paix en Casamance, co-founded by AJWS’s partner Usoforal. Before the run-off, the coalition engaged the presidential candidates to ensure that a democratic election could be possible and that restoring peace to the region was on the horizon. Yesterday, youth in the southern town of Bignona marched to call upon the new president to prioritize resolving the conflict in Casamance and creating jobs for young people. Read More
Protesters gather to voice their opposition against President Abdoulaye Wade who is running for another term as president.
This week, Senegal’s presidential campaign opens amidst stones, tear gas, grenades, student protests and calls for popular resistance by a coalition of opposition parties and civil society organizations.
Senegal’s current president, Abdoulaye Wade, is seeking re-election despite his term limit and dwindling popularity. Though some Senegalese support Wade, there are escalating riots over his bid to stay in power. Last week, four people including a student died from clashes between demonstrators and the police. The president is down-playing the protests, but the mounting tension is notable in a country known for its political stability. Senegal seems to be heading into the ugly lane of pre-electoral violence. Read More
Photo by Andrew Scheer
Originally posted on The Jew and the Carrot.
It was the pile of onions that made me cry. Not in the way you might think—I wasn’t standing over a cutting board, knife in hand, sobbing my way through an extended dicing activity. The onions that made me cry were whole, bagged and stacked about 5 feet high, in a small village in Western Senegal, where I was traveling with American Jewish World Service.
I cried because of the story behind this stack of onions, a story of thwarted ambition, injustice, and our broken global food system. Working with a local Non-Governmental Organization called GREEN Senegal, farmers from this village had implemented new farming practices, such as drip irrigation that vastly improved their efficiency and productivity. With much less time and effort, they had increased the quantity and quality of their onion crop, and were ready to bring their goods to market. In addition to the economic gain the villagers hoped to see through their efforts, the new efficiencies had the side benefits of allowing children to spend more time in school, rather than in the fields helping with the harvest, and mothers to spend more time in the home caring for their families. Read More
Foreign Policy Magazine recently released its list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2011. We were disappointed—though not so surprised—by the paucity of women on this list. So, we’ve added six extraordinary women who deserve recognition.
Leymah Gbowee, Liberia. You’ve probably heard a lot about Leymah Gbowee, in the news and on our blog. She won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize and is the founder of AJWS’s grantee Women Peace and Security Network- Africa (WIPSEN), which is why we were so surprised that she doesn’t appear on Foreign Policy’s list. (Leymah was, however, named as one of Forbes’ 10 Most Interesting Women of 2011.) Together with activists from the Liberian women’s movement, Leymah mobilized women from all walks of life and across religious and ethnic lines to demand peace and put an end to Liberia’s devastating 14-year civil war. She also fought to ensure that women could participate in political processes and rebuild the country.
We’re really excited that not one but TWO of our grassroots partners and colleagues, Sameena Nazir and Molly Melching, are finalists for the Guardian International Development Achievement Award. It’s an award that honors the unsung heroes of international development; those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make a positive difference in the lives and livelihoods of the world’s most marginalized people. Sameena and Molly need your votes to win!
So, who are these extraordinary women? Read More
Women of Tostan, an AJWS grantee in Senegal
Good intentions strike again. Today’s New York Times op-ed page features a tragic account of how the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act of 2010—no doubt conceived with good intentions by American politicians—is devastating mining towns in eastern Congo. In an effort to increase transparency in sourcing, the act “requires public companies to indicate what measures they are taking to ensure that minerals in their supply chain don’t benefit warlords in conflict-ravaged Congo.” This way, if companies are manufacturing products that contain so-called ‘conflict minerals,’ consumers will know. Sounds like a good idea, right? Not exactly.
Originally posted on Pursue: Action for a Just World.
“Establish early on that your liberalism is impeccable, and mention near the beginning how much you love Africa, how you fell in love with the place and can’t live without her. Africa is the only continent you can love… Be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.”
–“How to Write about Africa” by Binyavanga Wainaina
I have always been deeply troubled by the uneven power dynamics that seem inherent in international development. While disturbing, the destructive interventions into the affairs of the Global South through colonialism, transnational corporations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank are to be expected, given powerful economic forces that encourage the “haves” to take advantage of the “have nots.” I have personally become more wary of the people who see themselves as caring about the developing world while unwittingly taking on the role that Binyavanga Wainaina describes above in his biting criticism of white people who write about Africa. As I developed my identity as an activist, I felt overwhelmed by the scope of global poverty and the lack of models for positive engagement on an individual level. I felt that I had two options: to participate in exoticization of the developing world or disengage completely. Seeking to avoid participating in “the commodification of Otherness,” as bell hooks describes in her essay “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance,” I steadfastly clung to the latter, choosing to focus all of my activism on the local level.