Earlier this month, I had the pleasure and privilege to travel to Gisenyi in Rwanda for a #AfrikaVuka digital organizing and storytelling skills training.
About 20 activists gathered from across Africa to participate in the training. We spent 4 days sharing knowledge, stories, and songs, while building trust and digital organizing skills to take the #AfrikaVuka movement to the next level.
As discussions on the importance of climate stories unfolded, common themes crossing geographic boundaries gave insight into how stories all over Africa are being told. It became imminent that in order to grow the climate movement in Africa, communities living at the frontlines of climate change need to own their stories — and also challenge the way stories about Africa are told in general.
Entrenched narratives of Africa have often left the continent misunderstood. Crude descriptions of Africa, scaling from the ‘Dark Continent’ to the ‘Emerging One” ignore the complexities of Africa. Instead of trapping Africa into a single story or narrative, this retreat became a space to talk about storytelling practices that speak in their own voice and organizing tools that resonate with people and empower them to tell stories as they are.
- It’s clear that we have to go through a mental shift in our perception of the climate movement in the African context. These experiences can be united with efforts to tackle the climate crisis on a global scale.
- Connecting the climate fights across Africa isn’t only about solidarity, it’s also about strategy. It’s about recognizing that climate change isn’t a single-issue problem. We need to organize not just around climate change, but building the kind of solidarity and unity and that can bring on a massive economic and social transformation that works for everyone — and use tools and storytelling tactics that speak in individual voices and tools that resonate with our communities.
As the retreat came to a close, a participant shared his story with the group and said: I left my stable life in the UK to go back home and do something about the climate crisis. To me, this is not just about the climate, this is about survival. I can’t think of a better way to convey how I was quickly reminded about the urgency and importance of the work we’re doing together. The need for collective action couldn’t be more urgent. As the climate crisis accelerates, it’s up to all of us to take risks for a more just and sustainable world while we still can.
The powerful activists that I met in Gisenyi took their newfound skills and connections back to their local contexts. They’re ready to mobilize in solidarity with communities and take the fight against fossil fuels to the next level. Next stop is the Global Climate Strike. These activists will join thousands of people around the world to organise climate strikes in workplaces and communities on 20 and 27 September. Find out more here.
More: As part of the storytelling session, participants were asked to create content that explains why they’re in the fight for climate justice. Here’s some of what came out it:
Author: Chris Kif, 350Africa Digital Campaign Manager