3.2.1 Reflections on Translocal Learning During COVID-19 times
The accumulated crises of our contemporary world are manifold; at the same time, the local movements that have arisen to address them are even more numerous. These movements and groups act to try and save our collective future by mitigating or arresting the impacts of globalization, rampant capitalism and climate change on our present. These efforts are made in the face of global governing leadership that remains stalled in its inability to transform this global expression of hope into a framework for action – a fact yet again revealed at the recently completed Convention of Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow. At the same time, transnational social movements often appropriate local efforts at change, or try to direct actions in ways inappropriate to context (c.f. Langdon, 2010). On top of this, in being focused on grounded struggles, local movements can become isolated and disconnected from the issues that confront the broader world. Through the work of the Translocal Learning Network, a partnership developed through long-term SSHRC-funded research and interpersonal relationships as well as the work of the CRC in Sustainability and Social Change Leadership, that spans different struggle contexts in South Africa and Ghana, groups attempt to build and maintain connections beyond local struggle in order to learn from, share with, and draw strength from movements in other locations, and to do so in non-hierarchical ways. The panel will offer responses to questions posed in the calls for proposals, including the impact of the pandemic on each context, how to reimagine justice, how to advocate for translocal solidarities, and what and who are obscured by COVID-19. The response to these questions will be framed by the experiences and struggles of different members of this network, and how participating in the Translocal Learning Network has contributed to learning during this pandemic.
Presentations of the Symposium
Local to local, non-hierarchical learning as antidote to isolation
The overall goal of this research partnership is to catalyze and animate local to local (translocal) learning as means to build capacity among localized movements in their struggles for a climate just and anti-capitalist future, and in so doing trace the contours of a theory of translocal learning – learning based on local to local learning as opposed to top down learning that mimics the very problematic of global dominance these movements contest. Key to this process is an insistence that movements and groups rooted in local social change efforts are crucial authors and actors of a climate just and anti-capitalist future. Working and learning together since 2016 both by distance and with in-person visits, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic both exacerbated the pre-existing inequities and injustices within each context and presented new challenges with increased state repression, unequal access to supports and healthcare, and increased risks for precarious labour and landless peoples. In response to the isolation caused by the pandemic, and in an attempt to build solidarity and share learnings through these struggles, we created COVID Conversations as Translocal Learning Engagements (TLE), meeting quarterly by Zoom and responding to requests of support through acts of solidarity that have brought group members closer despite the distance. This panel paper will frame the work and overall learnings from this.
The Struggle for Press Freedom, Right to Communicate and Inform Under the Fresh Ada Songor Monopoly Leaseg
Radio Ada is a rural, non-partisan, non-sectarian, development-oriented community radio station based at Big Ada in the Greater Accra Region. Since its inception, in 1998, the station, has been the mother of community radios in Ghana. It strives to provide human resource development in its operations, working with trained volunteers, and is supported by its development partners, to engage in participatory programming. Its coverage includes fishing, farming and salt winning communities and its programming is rooted in the culture of the people. Its priority is to give voice to the least heard but those well informed about their situation and to bring their Indigenous knowledge to light. It has confronted development challenges like climate change, natural resource governance, community participation in governance, health promotion and conflict transformation, etc. One of the main areas of its work over the last several years concerns Ada’s Songor Lagoon – West Africa’s largest salt yielding lagoon, and a major source of livelihood for the Adas. Most recently, the station has documented the Ghana Government, supported by some traditional leaders, decision to give the whole lagoon as a monopoly concession to one company. Through the Translocal Learning Engagements, Radio Ada has been sharing these developments, reflecting on this new challenge, with the added obstacle of organizing during COVID-19, and receiving support from partners in the network. These learnings, and connection to the new struggle, will be the focus of this presentation.
Coalition organizing against large-scale mining in Ghana's Upper East
The Upper East Coalition of Social Movements in Mining (CSMM) brings together several groups and organizations in the Upper East and Northern Regions of Ghana, such as the Savannah Research and Advocacy Network and Venceremos Development Consult. This coalition has been working for several years to challenge large-scale gold mining in Ghana’s Upper East Region amidst negative impacts on health, land, climate, socio-economic conditions, governmental corruption, and community and media repression. The worrying growth of this large-scale sector has also undermined local livelihoods, both of farmers and of small scale miners. Members have connected and shared this experience with others in the Translocal Learning Network over the past two years, especially around legal avenues that can be pursued for challenging government ignoring the plight of those impacted by large-scale mining. This presentation will share these learnings and reflections, including what we learned from each other during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fighting State Repression and Inequity for South African Shackdwellers during COVID-19
Abahlali baseMjondolo, or ‘Shackdweller’s movement” is the biggest grassroots social movement to have emerged in post-apartheid South Africa, and works to advance the interests and dignity of the poor and landless in the areas of distribution of urban land, decent housing and forced evictions, and law reforms. This research partnership has been a key way for their 100,000 member strong South African movement to reflect on its own ongoing learning, to identify allies and build solidarity, and to deepen connections to and learn from other movements and organizations engaged in anti-capitalist and climate just struggles in general, and in the African context in particular. Since the pandemic started there has been increased state repression targeting the poor and landless. Also, the effects of the pandemic on communities without safe and adequate housing in shanty towns, the lack of ability to isolate and the increased spread of COVID-19 as well as inequities accessing healthcare and vaccinations have been devastating. This panel presentation will focus on these inequities as well as the ways this movement has been able to overcome some of them.