Community engagement and diverse representation for social transformation
Third Event of the 27th Annual Conference
of the International Environment Forum
Implementing Solidarity – Global to Local
19 September 2023
The panelists shared experiences of how underrepresented groups at the local level have been the protagonists of social change in their community.
View a video recording of the event here.
TOPICS AND PANELISTS:
The contribution of women to sustainable agriculture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo - Christian Lupemba
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the government proposes top-down development according to standard models in a context of armed conflicts and food shortages, Bahá'ís and their friends apply a new model based on consultation, action and reflection, with women and youth in the lead. Women's groups in South-Kivu have developed a system of diversified high-yield garden plots to improve agricultural production and protect the environment, with lines of mixed cultures and composting to manage pests. This led to community meetings that have drawn in men and village chiefs for unity in the village, and other initiatives such as children's classes. In Kasaï Province with inter-ethnic conflicts, women from several villages are working together in a movement for peace and social good, using agricultural activities to build friendship and meet food needs with maize and peanuts and onions as cash crops. Starting with a few marginalised people like women and youths, supported by educational activities to build capacity, these activities extend gradually to the whole community, broaden to other aspects of community life through social action, and demonstrate the unity of humanity.
View or download the text of Christian Lupemba's presentation (in French)
The Combili Urban Garden initiative in Yerevan, Armenia - Alda Aflatuni
Alda’s project attempts to address one of the biggest problems of our time: by 2050 air pollution will be the leading cause of deaths worldwide. The Combili Urban Garden initiative started from a realization that millions of people suffer from a simple fault in our behavior. We dump our kitchen bio waste into landfills and it turns into toxic gasses. By creating a model that has technological and educational components, all this could be changed. How to bring the children and youth into the forefront? How to influence habits on a community level? How to inspire decision makers to take part? These are some of the questions addressed in Alda’s presentation.
Alda showed a video that describes the project: "The Combili Urban Garden initiative in Yerevan, Armenia" https://youtu.be/p9i2tCDWnU4
Coral Reef Restoration and Youth Empowerment in Fiji - Austin Bowden-Kerby
Dr Austin shared with us a bit of his work over the last few decades in the Pacific and Caribbean with establishing coral nurseries and restoration sites and especially the engagement and role of the youth and indigenous communities in this. He shared about the further plans to put these groups at the forefront of the restoration work.
He shared a video about "Coral Reef Restoration and Youth Empowerment in Fiji" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnJ-eUVJwqE
The transforming power of education, a story from Uganda - Emmanuel Weere
Emmanuel shared the story of Sylvia who participated in the Preparation for Social Action program which is based around the concept of creating “promoters of community well-being” through material that explores the areas of language, mathematics, science, and processes of community life including education, agriculture, health, and environmental conservation. Her acquired knowledge in planting crops and in Math helped her to create a business which allowed her to stay in her community. She is an example of how the program is empowering women to become active agents of change in their communities.
The Power of Hope: Peer Education for Suicide Prevention among Inuit Youth In Greenland - Ismael Velasco
Due to the scars of colonialism, forced displacement in the name of modernisation, systemic discrimination, and destructive globalisation, Greenland faces the highest rates of suicide in the world. Climate change, global mineral exploration and the imposition of a party political system, create instability and profound social, economic and psychological challenges. This is the story of how a small group of Inuit youth in Greenland’s capital responded to a theatre performance by mobilising 1 in 10 youth in Greenland‘s capital in a movement for hope, psychological resilience and integration of both their indigenous heritage and identity, and their sense of global citizenship.
MODERATOR: Kiara Ehsani
Key takeaways from the event “Community engagement and diverse representation for social transformation”
By Christine Muller, USA
The panelists shared experiences of how underrepresented groups at the local level have been the protagonists of social change in their community. They told stories from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from Armenia, Fiji, Uganda, and Greenland. In our world drowning in crises, their stories provided hope and a direction for where we can go.
The following two key points stood out:
The first key point is the importance of access to knowledge and education.
Alda Aflatuni from Armenia told us about a project where youth and children reduce carbon and air pollution by collecting bio-waste in their neighborhood and composting it. These young people learn while participating in the project how to compost and use the composted material to grow plants.
Austin Bowden-Kerby reported about the big project of saving coral reefs in the Pacific. In many years of dedicated work, he has empowered young and indigenous people with scientific knowledge on how to save warm water-resistant corals and how to propagate them.
Christian Lupemba and Emmanuel Weere explained how access to knowledge and education helped women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Uganda to improve their personal lives with sustainable agricultural methods and how this contributed to the well-being of the whole community. Emmanuel told us the story of Sylvia. Her participation in the Preparation for Social Action program helped her acquire knowledge in planting crops and in Math which enabled her to create a business.
The second key point came from an answer to a question about the sustainability of efforts toward improving the well-being of a community. Ismael Velasco explained that in the many projects he has been involved in, the ones that were sustained had spiritual content. People who are spiritually motivated stay with the process over a long time. So, the sustainability and longevity of a project depends on its spiritual foundation.