By Ndey Awa Mbaye aka Awa Bling (Gambian participant)
I was honoured as a MUSIC FOR DEMOCRACY FELLOW being selected to be part of NewSeTa’s three-day training programme slated in June 28th-30th 2021 on Rebuilding Peace Through Actions with Inclusive Reach in Yaoundé, Cameroon at Yaahot Hotel. It was beautiful meeting participants from different tribes and parts of Cameroon, they were all so welcoming and it made me felt amazing.
Day 1 (one) 28th June 2021
Participants shared stories of how they tried to organise community dialogues in their communities, the challenges/disappointments they had to experience and how successful it turned out to be at the end. The lessons I learnt from their stories are:
- Advocacy is never enough, as an activist you have to be patient, not to give up and always strive to implement your ideas because every young person has a position to fulfil.
- The presentations which really caught my attention was done by Prof. Nsoh Christopher on Understanding Democracy and Mr Ndzi Etienne on Leadership and the challenges of lying amongst youths today.
- I was delighted to perform one of my songs called NEVER AGAIN which talks about the 22yrs of dictatorship under former President Yahya Jammeh’s rule and how our rights were violated as Gambians and especially as women.
“NEVER AGAIN demands justice and non-reoccurrence of dictatorship in the Gambia.”
Day2 (two) 29th June 2021
The session was opened by:
- Njimanu Njong Vanessa presented Hate Speech and its effects. Hate speech is caused by jealousy, hatred, depression etc, I expressed my concerns on how Gambian youths spread hate speech on social media especially now that we are marching towards the December 2021 Presidential Elections. We need to be mindful that anger can cause massive destruction. I believe that no form of hate speech should be tolerated because if it’s left unaddressed, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict in society.
- I was really inspired by Prof. Willibroad Dze-Ngwe presentation on his life experiences of violence as a child, watching his parents killed. It made me question how he transitioned from an extremely vengeful person to such a highly educated community peacebuilder. I found it really difficult to connect the dots but in the end, it taught me that two wrongs cannot make things right.
“The lesson I took back home from this is to Build Peace, Cultivate Peace and Spread Peace.”
- Oman Esther shared activities of her female-led network highlighting how they marched in the streets demanding justice for the human rights violations caused in a particular community. I asked why they chose to wear red and black in a picture she exhibits in her presentation. Her response was the Red stands for Blood and the Black represented grievance. It takes real courage to become an activist, there will be dirt thrown on us but no matter what we, we should have a stance and be prepared to die for the cause.
- The advice she gave to young female activists was to always be on the alert and learn the legal documents that protect women.
Day3 (three) 30th June 2021
This day featured one of the most interesting presentations throughout the Repair training programme by Mr Achaleke Christian on Youth participation in peacebuilding (skill sets for young community mediators).
Delegates participated in a role play and were placed into groups of 2 (two) divided societies, mediators, a team of journalists, CSOs and observers [which I joined for the role play].
- The play illustrated the 2 communities submerged in a bitter argument up to an extent that everyone was talking at once, the journalist got involved to know the root cause of the conflict but couldn’t get the answers they need. The mediators tried to settle the conflict but it was so heated that the 2(two) parties were not willing to sit down for a talk.
- What I observed from this play was that one of the journalists was a bit judgemental while reporting the incident which could lead to more problems.
- I also saw a woman being manhandled. This illustrated that in conflicts, women and children are the most vulnerable.
- I also learnt that as a mediator you shouldn’t be emotional and bias. When people are not willing to talk, you should be patient and create a safe space for them to be able to open up. The language used in a mediation process should be selected carefully to avoid conflict of interest.
- At the end of the role play, mediators used a different approach to ensure that the communities are united.
- During the closing ceremony, I was delighted to perform my song called DONT RAPE which is a true story and amaze about how my fellow Repair family responded to it even though the song was mostly in my dialect.
“Rape is a terrible act and it needs to stop.”
- Repair 2021 has been a beautiful experience for me. The participants were very friendly and made me feel at home. During the cultural night I admired how they dressed in their different traditional outfits, it was really beautiful.
- Almost all the participants wrote notes on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope specifically dedicated to me. I opened the envelope when I reached home, I felt really happy and emotional with their words of encouragement.
I renew my commitment to keep advocating about social issues through Music.
A big thank you to Mr Ateki Seta and his whole team for this great initiative and I look forward to future collaboration with NewSeTa.
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