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Glegbenu Network and Traversées Meet in Benin

Glegbenu and Traversées met in Benin this past September 28 - October 10, 2004. On the program of this crossing of paths between two associated Alliance initiatives: mutual discovery of their projects, experience sharing, presentation workshops for the Charter of Human Responsibilities, and the mapping thesaurus method.

The Glegbenu network, linked to the Youth Workshop of the Alliance, and the GRAPAD (Groupe de Recherche d’Appui pour l’Agriculture et le Développement - Research group in support of farming and development) have been working for about four years in Benin and in West Africa to promote an economy of solidarity, to propose governance alternatives (in particular with the Alliance for the Redefinition of Governance in Africa), and to open a debate on the Charter of Human Responsibilities. Our dynamics, which was reinforced in 2002 with the Call for Initiatives submitted to the Allies by the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation, recently organized a campaign for the promotion of the work accomplished on governance with Ousmane Sy, coordinator of the Alliance for the Recasting of Governance in Africa, and a series of awareness-raising workshops on the Charter of Human Responsibilities with Aurélien Atidegla (in charge of the GRAPAD).

Our network and its partners welcomed the itinerant team of Traversées, which stopped in Cotonou last September 28 to October 10. On this caravan, on the road now for eight months, were William Leroy and François Soulard, both French, who undertook a two-year world tour in quest of the ideals and paths taken by those who are trying to build a more responsible and united world, and are contributing to linking up and supporting various initiatives, using as their inspiration the work of the Alliance and the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation.

Traversée’s stay in Benin gave us the opportunity to continue our discussions on the Charter of Human Responsibilities and to open up perspectives with Glegbenu and some of its partners. It coincided with our activities related to the public circulation of the Charter in the socio-professional spheres that the GRAPAD and the Glegbenu network have organized lately.

Three high points were organized in Cotonou:

The first, which took place in the French Cultural Center, opened up discussions with youth leaders and persons in charge of networks such as Elan, coordinated by Rekya Madougou, the NGO Soeurs Unies à l’Oeuvre (Sisters united in work) represented by Huguette Apklogan who is also facilitator in Benin for the Alliance for the Recasting of Governance in Africa, a few young persons of the Glegbenu network, Victor Ahanhanzo Glegle, Barnabé, and Clotaire, as well as Aurélien Atidegla, in charge of the GRAPAD and coordinator of the Platform of Actors of the Civil Society of Benin. This first meeting allowed everyone to know more about their respective projects and to discuss the possibility of a Benin Social Forum on the basis of the experiences of the World Citizens Assembly and the "Don’t Touch My Constitution" campaign facilitated by Elan (socially responsible opposition against the determination of the leaders of Benin to modify the constitution against the people’s will - see http://www.associationelan.org).

Second meeting: the writing workshop for the Charter of Human Responsibilities in Braille with a group of young visually impaired persons of the Bartimé center at the Collège d’Afrique in Cotonou. This rather unusual meeting gathered a number of teenagers of the Bartimé center in Cotonou, teachers of the Collège d’Afrique, members of the NGO Africa-Peace and the Glegbenu network. It was a grand opportunity for the Glegbenu network of the Youth Workshop to discover the Charter in abridged Braille and to open a discussion on it with the younger generations. "There is now hope for these visually impaired young persons to learn of this Charter and see how its message can be expressed as improved behavior." "It is a way of getting involved in the very core of the challenges on a level playing field with other members of society all over the world," said the participants. The Youth Workshop and Traversées teams seized this opportunity to present the objectives of their mission, inspired by concerns for the circulation of the Proposal Papers and the Charter of Human Responsibilities.

Several ideas for exploiting the Charter were expressed:

- For the blind and visually impaired, it would be about working with the Charter in literacy projects with rural populations and in churches. "We must take this Charter to blind persons all over the world and promote responsibility among ourselves in order to express its content as good behavior among ourselves. The Charter in Braille is proof that we can break the wall standing between us and those who can see," the youths declared.

- There is also the need to work on the Charter and integrate it into school curricula and union life.

- A project to use the Charter within the teachers’ college was backed by all the participants and welcomed by the director of this institution, who wishes to make of the Collège de l’Afrique a laboratory of ownership of the Charter among the students. Given the tremendous motivation of the participants and the need to share the Charter further, another meeting was improvised with the support of the director of the Collège de l’Afrique for the document to be circulated directly among all the students and teachers of the teachers’ college. "Can our college become a laboratory for the Charter?" asked the institution’s director, mentioning the civic and moral instruction courses that are held on Friday evenings in all the grades.

Finally, the third meeting was devoted to an advanced discovery of the mapping thesaurus method. Following the first discussions on the Benin Social Forum and the experience of the World Citizens Assembly, our friends of Traversées suggested that we should improve our skills with this tool to facilitate the exploitation of discussions and structure the debates. The workshop began with an initiation to the mapping method on the basis of the experiences of the Alliance, of the World Social Forum of Porto Alegre, and a project for a Forum on the socioeconomic development of South-Benin supported by Christophe Tozo, an elected official of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Benin participating in the workshop.

We would like very much to thank the Traversées team for their stop in Benin. We hope that the ideas and experiences that they will have gathered from our discussions will be "contagious" and that they will help other initiatives in the countries and continents that our two friends plan to visit. May the two of them fare well and continue to carry with them the inspiration that links us within the Alliance!

Gustave ASSAH
Coordinator of the Glegbenu network
Member of the Youth Workshop of the Alliance

- more about Traversées: http://www.traversees.org


Gustave Assah
Beninese. Sociologist. Private Journalist. (...)
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