World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development!
In a world where so many voices struggle to be heard, where diversity is not always represented at the top echelons of society, an International Day that celebrates the power of cultural diversity in creating meaningful dialogue and sustainable development has never been more important. Today is a reminder of the vital need to ensure all voices are heard, and all opinions, backgrounds, and experiences are brought to the table.
Mirab Abaya, Ethiopia
In the Mirab Abaya district of Ethiopia, childrens’ voices are championed and their opinions encouraged in our cookstove project. The traditional stove used for cooking in this community consumes a lot of firewood – a requirement that not only contributes to community ill health as a result of air pollution but also poses a huge threat to local forests, as more and more trees are cut down to satiate this guzzling of firewood. Our community-led approach to introducing fuel-efficient cookstoves gives everyone in the community a platform to have their say and encourages diversity of opinion to find a solution that works for everyone.
Here, you can see the children calling for a discussion around forest protection, as they encourage their families and elders to switch to fuel-efficient cookstoves that will preserve their local forest. It is these kind of dialogues that Vita strives to create in all our projects – a platform where every member of a community can safely express their needs, concerns, and priorities. This, as we see it, is the only way to bring true and sustainable change to our world. We can all learn a lot from the passion and enthusiasm of these children!
For all of our clean water projects, our first step is always to conduct a local stakeholder consultation before implementing the project. In ZobaMaekel, Eritrea, we invited representatives from the villages in need of clean water to meet us and discuss their needs. We couldn’t believe the amount of people that turned up! Instead of just the representatives from the villages with broken water systems attending, we were instead greeted by representatives from every village in ZobaMaekel, including the villages that have other water supply systems!
Everyone was keen to share their experiences and, as a result, true learning and real progress was attained. United by the importance of clean water for human survival, it was uplifting to see so many diverse voices coming together with one shared goal and it reminded us that, above all else, it is this honest dialogue that matters most.
This eagerness to participate did not end with that initial meeting. Opening up a space for dialogue meant that the whole community was galvanised to participate in the water project, and there was all hands on deck as we repaired broken hand pumps! Together, we brought clean and safe water back to ZobaMaekel.
When things go wrong…
Sometimes, however, communication is hard! Creating dialogue in which both participants understand each other can sometimes be challenging – as some of our Eritrean team discovered on a recent research trip. With officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, they were visiting different potato farms to take crop yields. However, after talking to the farm manager and gaining permission to dig a sample, they were suddenly met by a very angry farmer who thought they were trying to steal his beloved spuds!
From terrible internet connections, innocent miscommunications, cultural differences, and alternating time zones, we know from experience that a commitment to championing diversity and open dialogue isn’t always easy. However, as an organisation with staff based in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Ireland that always puts community needs first, we know we wouldn’t have it any other way.
From all at Vita, Happy International Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development Day! And now, to “sample” some spuds…