Kadijatou Jallow Baldeh
In the mid-20th century it was easy to define who we were by name, language, ethnicity and country of origin. It is becoming extremely diffi cult in the 21st century to define who we really are. A mother tongue was defined as the language that both parents spoke and nationality where we happened to be born. This reminds me of the song “on est né quelque part …”. As Africans we prided ourselves in our family names, clans and villages. In this century, “What’s in a name?” to quote Romeo and Juliet. It is now evident that children born to parents coming from different continents living in a third continent find it difficult to define who they really are. Their names no longer carry their ethnicity nor their nationality. A French citizen is no longer defined as a white person with blue eyes, blonde hair and a baguette. Today, a French citizen can be anyone, Black, Arab or Asian.
Industrialisation and development in the communication industries is making the world smaller and smaller. People can travel half the continent in a day, hold meetings with people on the other side of the world without leaving their homes, are aware of happenings within seconds after they have happened, thanks to television and satellites.
In the 1960s, growing up in the city of Banjul, in Gambia, I knew very little outside of my neighbourhood in Half-Die, thought very little of what was happening outside my environment. The only contact with the outside world was a photo of Queen Elizabeth II and her children hung on the wall of a neighbour who went to the UK to study. Few people owned radio sets and we could count the number of bicycle and
vehicle owners in the whole country. Today, children as young as 5 can tell you what is going on in Europe, Asia and America due to their exposure to information on the television and/or the Internet.
Socialisation has now moved beyond our homes, communities, countries and continents to the wider world. Western education directly or indirectly influences our thought and behaviour as Africans. The opportunity to study and attend conferences outside Gambia has gradually influenced my becoming a global citizen. What happens in Asia or America has a direct influence on the day-to-day lives of Africans living in hamlets so small they do not even exist on the map, and travel has exposed Americans and Europeans to other cultures and religions. We have become global citizens without realizing or preparing for it. It is time we recognise and face the reality of being global citizens and start acting it.
As an adult I have realised that I am a global citizen and there is no turning back. The value of the pound and the dollar determines what my next meal is going to be, and IMF regulations decide on a lot of policies in Africa. People globally share the same dreams and aspirations, even where the contexts differ.
Education, in a broad sense of the word, not certification, opens up a lot of doors for us. Widespread illiteracy, ignorance, lack of skills and poverty are highly interlinked. Poverty and ignorance has led to the rise of terrorism and acts of violence. These have led to the birth of Boko Haram in West Africa, ISIL in the Arab peninsula, drug barons in Latin America, Al-Qaida in the Maghreb, you name them.
Information technology has succeeded in turning us all into citizens of the global village. However, it has come at a high price. People are no longer satisfi ed with their way of life but aim for the dream of a good life to be found only in the Eldorado of Europe or America. Our youth perish on the high seas on rickety boats in search of better lives. In the 18th century, Africans died on slave ships – in the 21st century young people pay US$4000 to become willing slaves or to die reaching their destination.
Sinking ships and arresting human traffi ckers will not solve the problem. The only way you can do that is by going to the root cause and looking at the issue from a global perspective. Why is it that you and I will not embark on this perilous adventure? The answer is: We have something to hold on to, an education, a job, a home, three meals a day and other nice things to have.
Being a member of PAMOJA at national and sub-regional level has provided me with the opportunity to work with people at the grassroots level. It has opened my eyes to the causes and consequences of poverty in relation to injustices, illiteracy and lack of information. Poverty is man-made and we all have a role in ensuring that it is minimised.
As a global citizen, I have now taken a responsibility to update myself with events that take place globally and to embrace diversity. I have had the opportunity to contribute by facilitating the empowerment process for women and children’s groups through the use of participatory approaches such as Reflect, Reflection Action and Participatory Vulnerability Analysis.
As a member of the global village, I now have a moral responsibility to help reverse this dangerous massive exodus. PAMOJA is a great platform from which to start this advocacy to make the world a better place.
Kadijatou Jallow Baldeh
is Programme Specialist for Education and Youth in ActionAid International The Gambia and is a board member of the Pamoja West Arica network. She has had the opportunity to travel to other parts of Africa, Europe, America and Asia and to interact with people from different cultural and religious backgrounds.
ActionAid International The Gambia
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