Eugène Etse, head of GRADH, an associate member of the Dianova network in Togo, gives an enthusiastic account of his participation in CoDeS 2019
By Yawo (Eugène) Etse – For five days, from 1 to 5 October 2019, I had the unique opportunity to join a group of energetic and knowledgeable professors and students in Valladolid, Spain. The third edition of The Formative Congress in Sustainable Development – CoDeS 2019 was also, and for the first time, hosting parallel sessions dedicated to academic articles, the CoDeS Academico.
Under the motto: “Africa Grita!” (Africa is crying out), academics and NGOs representatives from Europe and Africa participated in a week packed with conferences and workshops, group discussions and other social activities. I had the opportunity to enrol in various of these activities, which provided many interesting insights and ideas that I will take back home and utilize in the NGO I founded and I am leading, the Groupe de Reflexion des amis pour le Developpement de l’Humain (Reflection Group of Friends for Human Development – GRADH).
I also had the chance to share my experience in working with GRADH and organizing its annual theatre festival (FESTEH), through my participation in a workshop facilitated by Ms. Jenny Mbaye: Creative cities and urban transformation through Art.
Private artistic and cultural activities are changing the face of artistic production in African countries. At the same time, the transformative power of art and culture has the capacity to affect people’s behaviour. It is exactly by drawing on this life-affirming energy that GRADH is capable of disseminating positive messages about health and peaceful coexistence in local Togolese communities, through traditional storytelling, songs and theatre.
The workshop on the defence of the environment and sustainable consumption of natural resources, run by Ms. Elisabeth Wathuti, gave me food for thought about the importance of addressing climate change. The narrative is changing, and taking on climate change is more about the number of trees that we can actually grow rather than the mere number of trees planted. Long-term survival is key for trees because they need to live at least 100 years for them to be able to offset the man-made greenhouse gases.
Young people and schoolchildren have a key role to play in this fight for a better future. In western societies, education makes them more aware of these challenges thus motivating them to take positive environmental actions. In Africa however, a lot needs to be done.
The role of GRAHD in promoting informal education may be a game-changing opportunity for the Togolese communities. Thanks to this workshop I feel more ready to take up this topic and develop it on the ground with our volunteers.
The interactive role-play and visit to the beautiful town of Castronuño was also extremely inspiring and engaging. Within the CoDeS social programme, we drove 50 km to meet the local population and share a game on reversing climate change. This showed me, from a pro-active perspective, how individual and collective actions can shape the way we tackle and mitigate the consequences of climate change.
Finally, on 4 October I had the chance to present my academic article on the Togolese Red Cross’ Mothers’ Clubs at the Academic CoDeS. The Mothers’ Clubs (MCs) are groups of women trained by the Togolese Red Cross in maternal and child health, hygiene and sanitation, resilience and literacy, and the identification and management of income-generating activities. The 2,486 MCs currently active involve more than 50,000 women in Togo. As a result of MCs-led activities, community health has improved, women’s participation in community development has increased and they now have a better access to financial resources. In addition, the number of girls attending school has increased. The topic of the MCs is part of my PhD thesis on the role of volunteers in sustainable development. It was really exciting and rewarding to have the opportunity to present this work to an international audience, as well as was the chance of having my work reviewed by a committee of academics. Should the article be published, it will be a tremendous contribution to the completion of my PhD.
I am very happy to have had the opportunity to participate in this congress and meet so many people and representatives from other associations and universities, with whom I will continue conversations and prepare future collaborations. This congress was full of positive hints. The good practices learned from other participants and from teachers will help me to use culture better when promoting changes in health behaviours and in living habits likely to impact the environment. I am now more convinced than ever that instead of waiting for collective actions, we must start transforming our cities as individuals – we must start from ourselves.
Lastly, I’d like to emphasize that I’ve been able to live this fantastic experience thanks to Dianova’s technical and logistical support and the generous contribution of the organization’s supporters through a dedicated crowdfunding campaign. I can’t find the words to express all my gratitude for what they’ve done.
Africa grita. Africa is crying out! We must start changing Africa with the Africans. With our local knowledge and enthusiasm. The support of external partners is a great help, but it behooves us, Africans, to find the solutions that better suit our way of life, our culture and identity. Occasions like CoDeS pave the way for new thinking processes and exchanges, where innovative solutions are co-created and developed in an atmosphere of friendship and commitment to the common good.
Thank you, CoDeS. Africa Is crying out, now it’s our turn to respond!