By Christine Campeau
This was my first time at the World Social Forum and I must admit, I had no idea what to expect from this event. However, I didn’t expect it would have been this disorganised.
The Universite du Chiekh AntaDiop that housed the event was still filled with students writing exams. The daily programmes were not posted until midday, well after half of the workshops should have already taken place. Plus, once the workshop locations were announced, most of the classrooms were still full of students writing their exams.
As rumour has it, there were so many strikes by both students and teachers that the exam season was still in full swing. The government tried to force the university to clear the rooms but students protested that they should be able to write their exams (rightly so). So while the university and the government battled it out, students protested and the WSF participants presented their workshops in hallways and free corners of the campuses.
It was a real shame to have this many participants walking around in circles desperately looking for daily programmes that were yet to be printed.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way. The Caritas workshop on Climate Change and Forced Migration was planned for the morning of Tuesday 8 February. Eight speakers had prepared excellent presentations and we weren’t about to let disorganisation stand in the way of information sharing.
Abbé Tine and I met at the WSF early in the morning to get any sense of where our workshop would take place. After 30 minutes and no response from the president of the WSF, we decided to take matters into our own hands and convert the Caritas tent into an auditorium.
Within one hour, we had 60 chairs from the Caritas office, a projector, tables, a translator booth with two interpreters, microphones and headsets all ready to go. I can’t describe what a feat this was and how happy I was to see it all come together. Despite the late start, our Caritas workshop filled the tent with an audience of 80-100 people, all eager and willing to contribute to the discussion.
The workshop introduced case studies from Niger, Bangladesh, and Senegal, and models for addressing the problem from Cambodia and Zambia.
It really was a perfect example of how things can be accomplished when people believe in something; all in line with the spirit of the WSF.
Caritas members continued to pull together their efforts throughout the week and were living proof of what we’d chanted during the opening march: “Another world is possible” as long as we are dedicated to making it happen.