Africa Contact and partners show the way forward at partnership seminar

There was an atmosphere of partnership, solidarity and common purpose at Africa Contact and partners’ 3rd Partnership Seminar, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, between the 4th and 7th of April 2013. An atmosphere that fully lived up to Africa Contact’s slogan “active solidarity with active people.”

“We are the carriers of the dream of a better world,” as Africa Contact’s Head of Secretariat, Morten Nielsen put it at the seminar. ”But we must connect the dreams of today with the struggles of tomorrow and make people see that we all have a common dream of a world where the system works in favour of people. And we mustn’t depoliticise our work when challenging the status quo.”

Partner organisations from South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Western Sahara, and Zimbabwe were present at the seminar. The main aims of the seminar were to ”share and gain knowledge”, ”develop new partnerships”, ”develop a set of shared values”, and for Africa Contact’s partners to suggest amendments to its Strategy 2015 draft, all aims that were fully realised.

“All of us at the seminar are fighting the same struggle despite that we come from different backgrounds,” said Salama Mohammed from Western Sahara’s student union, UESARIO, “because we share a lot of the same problems.”

“The shared vision and mission of Africa Contact is like we made it,” said one of the partners from Zimbabwe. “This is why our partnerships have worked.”

Especially the importance of networking (including the importance of South-South cooperation and networking) and the concrete action that must come from this was discussed vividly, and several measures to ensure the flourishing of future networks amongst the Africa Contact “family” were initiated.

“A good network can offer protection,” as one of the partners from Zimbabwe put it, “we are stronger when we are working with other people in networks.” “Many people do not find the courage to act, but things will only change when they do so,” as another partner from Swaziland said. “But there is a gap between civic education and action that we need to fill by leadership training, local mobilising and action”, said a third partner from South Africa.

In view of all this, it was decided that a new and ongoing campaign called ACT NOW is to be started and run collectively by the Africa Contact family as a whole. The campaign is to focus on key urgent issues of the partners and will start with focusing on the fight for multiparty democracy in Swaziland in general, and the unbanning of Swaziland’s trade federation, TUCOSWA, in particular. Other thematic campaigns are to follow.

But as Nelson Mandela concluded after having spent the better part of his life in prison, fighting for the end to apartheid and for one man one vote in South Africa, the struggle does not end with democracy. “There is no easy walk to freedom,” he said. “The elections of April 1994 did not set us free – but we did achieve the freedom to be free.”

A series of thematic articles about the partnership seminar will follow in the coming weeks. These articles will cover the main thematic presentations and discussions at the seminar, including Africa Contact’s Strategy 2015, Civic Education, Networking and Fundraising.

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