Tag Archives youth

Studying the aspirations of youth can tell us a lot more about their worlds

Studying the aspirations of youth can tell us a lot more about their worlds

Aspiration is an implicit element of development that inspires action for change. Yet there are increasing concerns about the individualised and instrumental use of aspirations in development practice. In a ...

COVID-19 | The voices of children and youth in Tanzania’s COVID-19 response

COVID-19 | The voices of children and youth in Tanzania’s COVID-19 response

Rapid research into the effects of COVID-19 on young people in Tanzania reveals high levels of anxiety about the virus as it relates to relationships, economic livelihoods and the community. ...

Creative Development | “Do I exist”? Miktivism for Land Rights and Identity in Ethiopia by Tatek Abebe

Miktivism—the use of music for the purposes of activism and social change—has become a popular strategy of resistance among Ethiopian youth. I use the term miktivism to refer to the practice of employing music to advance causes of social justice by youth who do not claim to be activists, at least not openly. This blog explores an example of miktivism: young musicians deploying what they regard as their talents and resource—music and microphone—to highlight questions of land and identity in the Oromia region, Ethiopia.


Land grabbing in the Oromia region  

The Oromia region is the largest of Ethiopia’s nine federal regions. Its inhabitants, the ethnic Oromo people, account for about 35% of the country’s population. Oromo people inhabit lands surrounding Addis Ababa and also in west, central, and south Ethiopia. Due to its proximity to Addis Ababa, the Oromia region has been subjected to continuous encroachment by industrial and real estate developments driven by Ethiopian and international investors and suffered from land grabbing driven by foreign agri-investments (e.g. Lavers 2012).

Maalan Jira? / Do I exist?

The struggle to retain agricultural land has been at the core of widespread youth protests in the Oromo region during the period 2015-2018. Music plays a key role in these protests and the song Maalan Jira by Oromo artist Hacaaluu Hundeessaa serves as a prime example.

Maalan Jira is a social-political song disguised by love lyrics in Affan Oromo language. The song was released in 2015, at the beginning phase of the youth protests and has had close to 6 million views on the YouTube.

Land grab as an existential threat

Maalan jiraa, maalan, jiraa, maalan jiraa, Yaa Gaa-laa-nee…
Maalan jiraa maalan, caccabsee na nyaatee jiraa
Ani hin jiruu… Ani hin jiruu, Ani hin jiruu… Yaa Ga-laa-ne, Ani hin jiruu Kukkutee na nyaate xurri

Do I exist Galaane? No Galaane I do not exist; they chopped and ate my liver [vital organs].
What is left of me Galaane? They broke up my bones and ate them.

Koo Galaanee tiyyaa, Sululta loon hin tiksuu darabaatti galchiisa, 

My dear Galaane, Sululta cannot let the cattle to graze freely; they have to fence them.

 The lyrics present contemporary land grabs as an existential threat. This is done by drawing an analogy between the human body/anatomy and land as a vital means of existence for the rural population. Hacaalu Hundessa repeatedly expresses that his ‘bones are broken up’, bit by bit, in order to exemplify how agricultural land is slowly becoming a scarce resource for farmers. Phrases like ‘vital organs chopped away’ and ‘eaten up’ represent first of all the grabbing and selling of rural land to investors. These existential metaphors also resonate with one of the most popular chants during the protests: ‘lafti keenya lafee keenya’ (‘our land is our bone’). Secondly, the music video and the lyrics refer to the need to fence cattle because of declining open pastures. Oromo people have a long tradition of letting their cattle unfettered in the field. Cattle is brought home only when they are to be milked or slaughtered. This is just one example of illustrating intensified land grab in the name of development, experienced by local population not as a mere change in livelihoods, but as a compromise to what it means to be Oromo.

Historical repetition of grabbing of Oromo lands

Laal Galoo-too, Gullalleen kan Tufaa, gaara Abbichuu turii, Galaan Finfinnee..see.
Laal Galoo-too, Silaa akka jaalalaa Laal Galoo-too, wal irraa hin fagaannuu Laal Galoo-too, Jarraa nu fageessee.

Look my Galoo, Gullallee belonged to Tufaa, Abbichuu was on the hills, Galaan farmed Finfinnee.
We, the lovers, should have never been separated, but those people separated us.

The main protagonist in the song is a woman named Gelaanee, who is affectionately referred to as ‘Galoo’. Gelaanee also refers to a queen of one of the Oromo clans which was conquered by Emperor Menellik II during his expansion in the 20th century. Following this conquest and resembling contemporary developments, queen Gelaanee’s land became incorporated into Ethiopia’s capital.

Malaan Jira recounts the violent expansion of Finfinnee into Addis Ababa through the gradual pushing away of indigenous Oromo clans. The song laments how—through land grabs—people are losing not just their land but also their rural mode of life. It refers to localities like Gullelle, Abbichuu, Galaan and, Sululta etc; places where Oromo clans lived for generations. These areas are now either part of Addis Ababa or suggested for incorporation into Addis Ababa’s Integrated Development Plan. This development plan, locally known as the master killer plan, is the main trigger for the ‘Ethiopian Spring’.

‘Separation of lovers’

Diiganii gaara sanaa, Gaara diigamuu hin-mallee,
Nu baasaan addaan baanee, nuu addaan bahuu hin-mallee. 
Seeqanii sesseeqanii, kan gar gar nu baasan jaraa—yii
 
They dug that hill, a hill that should never have been dug/destroyed.
They separated us, the people who should never have been separated.
Little by little, they cut us apart [alienated us].

Maalan Jira effectively mobilizes a number of metaphors to express social critique in a guarded manner. For example, the phrase ‘Separation of lovers’ refers to the growing rift between Oromia region and Finfinnee brought about by the allocation of its land for the development of Addis Ababa. The metaphor also stands for the ethnic-based federalism pursued by the Ethiopian government, amplifying differences rather than shared interests. Both the song and music video tell stories of several generations of farmers who went on to cultivate vast areas of land, yet the present generation does not even have a ‘ground to sleep on.’ The music video alludes to systemic dispossession, i.e. the process of political economy altering the material grounds of life as well as the ways in which people struggle for control of social reproduction.

Maalan Jira is a prime example of the miktivism embraced by Oromo youth. It shows how youth mobilize historical references and powerful metaphors, describing the loss of identity, way of life, livelihoods and lands of Oromo people. Yet, by using ‘Galoo’ they can just claim it is an innocent love song. This strategy enables youth to elude the risks engendered by voicing political issues openly.


Reference
Lavers, T. (2012). ‘Land grab’ as development strategy? The political economy of agricultural investment in Ethiopia. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 39 (1), 105-132.

This article is part of a series on Creative Development.


About the author:

Tatek AbebeTatek Abebe is a professor at the Norwegian University of Sciences and Technology (NTNU) where he convenes the MPhil in childhood studies. His current research focuses on generational implications of development/poverty with an emphasis on young people’s lives and transitions into adulthood. He conducts ethnographic and participatory fieldwork in diverse African contexts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children as experts: rethinking how we produce knowledge by Kristen Cheney

Children as experts: rethinking how we produce knowledge by Kristen Cheney

Most research on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights is adult-led and adult-centred, not only ignoring young voices but denying diversity amongst young people. But a new project co-led ...

The Orphan Industrial Complex comes home to roost in America by Kristen Cheney and Karen Smith Rotabi

The Orphan Industrial Complex comes home to roost in America by Kristen Cheney and Karen Smith Rotabi

The recent removal of migrant children from their parents at the southern US border has caused great public outcry, but Kristen Cheney and Karen Smith Rotabi argue that it could ...

Emancipatory education in practice: perspectives from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas by Veriene Melo

Emancipatory education is a platform to humanise and redefine the educational process in liberatory terms. Linking theory and practice from this lens can help us explore the role of education as a crucial instrument in the struggle for social change in communities at the margins.


An eye towards liberatory pedagogic practices

The more that traditional schools focus on “one-size-fits-all” curriculums meant solely to prepare individuals for the market, the more they detach themselves from local needs, knowledges, and values. A lack of exposure to critical content about social, economic, and political contradictions in formal education limits people’s ability to challenge the status quo and their attempts to rupture existing hegemonic arrangements.[i] [ii] Moving away from top-down approaches concerned with promoting modernisation processes and exposing notions of oppression and existential violence as authentic and ever-present, emancipatory education advances pedagogic practices that seek to empower individuals to think critically and act upon social and structural inequalities with the aim of transforming their lives and communities.[iii] [iv]

Conceiving education as a cultural act and a two-way process between educators and students based on the co-production of knowledge and critical dialogue, the framework is closely linked to the demands of the community and departs from the experiences and capabilities individuals bring with them to learning spaces. Due to its often more autonomous nature, emancipatory education invites us to embrace non-formal educational platforms as more inclusive learning sites where counter-hegemonic discourses and actions can flourish.[v] From this perspective, the work of civil society organisations can become a source of empowering possibilities and access to democratic life. Results from a case study of a youth program in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil help us bridge the framework’s theoretical and practical dimensions with processes, methods, and experiences reflecting real-world practices.

Realising the potential of favela youth

In the over 750 favelas scattered across Rio de Janeiro, crime and the permissiveness of violence—combined with the chronic lack of services, deep socio-economic deprivation, and a culture of marginalisation of the poor—have, for much of the city’s recent history, confined the majority of its 1,4 million residents to invisibility and intense social exclusion.[vi] As a result, favela youth face serious structural barriers that undermine their social and economic mobility, including exposure to poverty, difficulties moving up the educational pipeline, limited work and income opportunities, and the lack of access to platforms for cultural affirmation. Youths, in particular, are more likely to be out of school and work and are disproportionately impacted by lethal violence and police brutality.[vii]

Within this context, the Networks for Youth Agency program (hereby: Agency)[viii] promotes a capacity-building methodology that supports mostly black and low-income favela youths aged 14-29 in leading actions of social impact by encouraging their protagonism and artistic production. Since 2011, the program—which is now financed by the Ford Foundation and inspires a similar initiative in the UK[ix]—has engaged over 2,500 young people from dozens of Rio favelas, incubating 180 original projects. For a period ranging between two and four months,[x] participants are introduced to several educational instruments meant to stimulate them to cultivate their interests, exercise their analytical and critical thinking skills, and draw from their social history, lived experiences, and cultural identities to advance their ideas.

agenciaproject_crimelab

Linking theory and practice in emancipatory education

An in-depth analysis of Agency points to three aspects of the program’s methodology that are particularly reminiscent of a Freirean emancipatory education. The first involves situating participants as agents of community transformation. Approaching young people as potent individuals and changemakers, the program provides participants with instruments to formulate and carry out initiatives that bear a potential territorial impact, placing them at the heart of local development processes in favelas. The result is an assembling of diverse projects that manage to reach hundreds of residents. From strategies to promote women’s empowerment and youth conflict resolution, to platforms to address education, work, and urban transportation challenges, these localised actions are mechanisms of positive social regeneration that help create a counter-narrative to dominant discourses about favelas and its young residents, which tends to be driven by assumptions of criminality and precariousness.

The program’s bottom-up approach to community development brings us to its second emancipatory education-related dimension of contextualised learning and praxis. The various instruments and exercises applied in the methodology integrate the interests, realities, and demands of young people, creating a dynamic and interactive platform that attract participants to join the learning process as active subjects rather than passive objects. It is, therefore, by first contextualising education to the lifeworld of young people and respecting their dispositions and abilities that Agency can stimulate participants to draw from elements of their social and physical world to advance context-sensitive initiatives that are based on community conditions, resources, and everyday practices.

The third broader linkage to emancipatory education has to do with the adoption of an educational model based on reflective practices and critical dialogue. Agency educators stimulate participants to think critically about their place in the world, their life conditions, and different issues impacting their communities. The advancement of tools that promote a critical analysis of dominant discourses and unequal social structures is, however, meant to go beyond supporting young people in the process of broadening their political conscience and social critique, to encourage them to use that reflection to realise their potential for social engagement by envisioning solutions.

A platform of possibility in efforts to transform education

Conclusions from my analysis of Agency points to opportunities for emancipatory education to play a key role in efforts to capacitate, empower, and more actively engage youth in local development processes via non-formal educational platforms in communities at the margins. The study inevitably also reveals great and multifaceted challenges. For instance, the program must grapple with a series of operational and methodological constraints as well as obstacles pertaining to the social context where it operates. Also, as an incrementalist strategy, there can be no guarantee that Agency’s outcomes are long-lasting—which does not diminish its transformative significance in particular settings and at a particular points in time.

fernando-e-cordao-marinamoreira-agencia

In all, despite its shortcomings, emancipatory education remains a relevant platform of inspiration and hope as we dare reinvent education moved by hopes for social justice and equity. Ultimately, exploring the personal experiences of participants and the local impact of provisions that are helping young people in poor and violence-stricken communities tap into their potential, cultivate a more critical reading of their world, and become agents of social change, is an important step in efforts in identifying and supporting transformative pedagogical initiatives that are bottom-up not only on paper, but also in essence and practice.


[i] Mayo, P. (2015) ‘Reinventing Paulo Freire: A Pedagogy of Love’ by Antonia Darder. Journal of Transformative Education, 2004, 2 (1), 64-66.
[ii] Illich, I. (1971) Deschooling Society. New York: Harper & Row.
[iii] Torres, C. (2013) Political Sociology of Adult Education. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
[iv] Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
[v] Giroux, H. (2011) On Critical Pedagogy (Critical Pedagogy Today Series). New York: Bloomsbury.
Torres, C. (1990). The Politics of Nonformal Education in Latin America. New York: Praeger.
[vi] Jovchelovitch, S. And Priego-Hernández, J. (2013). Underground sociabilities: identity,           culture and resistance in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. UNESCO Office in Brazil and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Souza e Silva, J. (2014). “Towards a New Paradigm of Public Policy in Rio’s Favelas.” Conference on Violence and Policing in Latin America and U.S. Cities. Stanford, CA, April 28-29 2014.
Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE). (2010). Censo Demográfico 2010. Características Gerais da População, Religião e Pessoas com Deficiência. Rio de Janeiro: IBGE.
[vii] Waiselfisz, J. (2015). Mapa da Violência 2015: Mortes Matadas Por Armas de Fogo. Brasília: UNESCO.
Instituto Pereira Passos (IPP) and Instituto TIM. (2017). Agentes da Transformação: Cadernos da Juventude Carioca. Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Pereira Passos.
[viii] For more on Networks for Youth Agency (Agência de Redes Para Juventude), please visit: http://agenciarj.org (in Portuguese).
[ix] For information on Agency’s UK version, see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/yourbusiness/young-enterprise/11489791/How-the-Rio-slums-helped-inspire-a-start-up-revolution.html
[x] The full methodology promoted by Agency lasts a total of four months, but groups who are not awarded the funds to implement their projects leave the program at an earlier phase upon completion of the first two months of workshops.

About the author:

UntitledVeriene Melo is a recent Ph.D. graduate from the UCLA Graduate School of Education and a former visiting student at the ISS. For over five years, she worked at the Stanford Program on Poverty and Governance (PovGov), participating in policy-oriented research projects on public security, local governance, and youth education with a focus on Rio’s favelas.