The Ubuntu Experience

The group getting together over tea

‘I Am Because You Are Because We Are’  …the spirit of Ubuntu as shared by Archbishop Desmund Tutu in South Africa sheds light on the essence of being human. It speaks of our interconnectedness. We think of ourselves far too frequently as individuals, separated from one another, whereas we are connected – what we do affects the whole World and when we do it well it spreads out to the whole human family.  In the first week of February, I was a  participant at the Commonwealth Change-makers training conducted by Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council (CYEC) in collaboration with British Council in Sri Lanka. It was a week-long reflective and refreshing journey with a group of 17 youth facilitators from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India. Commonwealth believes in the spirit of Ubuntu and it was flowing through us in the course of the workshop as we discovered the differences yet the striking similarities we had even though we all came from different countries and focused on how we were connected.

A frozen frame of our idea of peace

During the course of the workshop we were constantly donning two hats- that of a participant and the other of a facilitator. This exercise enabled us to look at both ends of the spectrum and understand how to put out the information we had in an exciting, interesting and engaging manner. As a part of the workshops we explored the notion of ‘change’, which is quite a buzz word in the development sector. We looked at what it means to be a Change-maker and as youth facilitator how we can support a young persons’ journey of creating that change. The sessions entailed discussions on personal, community and country values, the Commonwealth as a body and the values it upholds, understanding Human Rights, envisioning Human Rights for a new country, its relevance especially in developing countries. We also explored the different paradigms of leadership and debated on notions of whether leaders were born or made and whether they were meant to create more leaders or followers, exploring democracy as a political system and democratic values that are demonstrated in them, consensus as a mechanism for decision making and engagement of youth in democratic spaces. Exploring development and looking at it being categorized as a human right was also an interesting piece. Envisioning of action projects and their creation was the final segment of the workshop which was followed by all of us conducting mock sessions to practice our facilitation skills.

“Is development a right?” – Looking at development issues linking it to rights it violates

The exposure to a new country (I will not forget the way Ayubowan used to greet and say a kind hello in Sinhalese, the sandy beach, the fresh fish in the cuisine and freshly brewed tea), being facilitated by professionals from the West (Sussana and Alex  added a  new flavor to my  facilitation style as did Helen  from CYEC by their rich theoretical as well as experiential inputs seasoned with dance, drama and laughter), indulging in dialogue on issues of importance in all 5 countries (poverty, democracy, human rights, values, leadership, consensus and most importantly the idea of change) and an evening of cultural exchange( dancing  to the beat the Peshwari folk, to Scottish feet thumbing, fishermen folk, to Sri Lankan Masks dance forms, Bangla music, and of course Bollywood numbers repeating on the playlist) made this trip a memorable one for me with both my shiny hats.

Evening with a cultural blend

~ Malavika Pavamani


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