Challenging marginalisation and social exclusion

As usual, where there is ignorance about a particular issue, particularly one that is both sensitive and personal, the tendency is to demonise and belittle, thus creating the ideal environment for marginalisation and social exclusion – and for ensuring that little is learned and few new concepts are accepted.

October 18th, 2013

As usual, where there is ignorance about a particular issue, particularly one that is both sensitive and personal, the tendency is to demonise and belittle, thus creating the ideal environment for marginalisation and social exclusion – and for ensuring that little is learned and few new concepts are accepted.

It is worth noting that while the many social institutions we live under do a lot of good for communities and individuals, they can also represent oppressive systems that support different forms of social exclusion based on the gender, class, ethnicity and sexual orientation, among others, of minorities. These systems render minority groups and individuals both invisible and voiceless and exclude them from development processes – usually through existing policies and laws that mainly focus on the interests and agenda of the majority.

This marginalisation of minority groups is just a manifestation of long standing polarisations and discriminatory attitudes – as well as practices – towards what is different and unknown. As a result the affected people’s lives are characterised by insecurity and a deep sense of social alienation.

To help tackle this, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) conducted its inaugural course on Challenging Exclusion, Marginalisation and Inequalities in Lusaka in 2012, which brought together individuals from across the SADC region. Following its success, OSISA – in collaboration with the Centre for African Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London – recently hosted the second informative and productive two-week training course in Gaborone.

Participants from various civil society organisations attended the course to enhance their understanding of social exclusion, marginalisation and inequalities and how best to influence their governments to reach out and engage all stakeholders in the formation of inclusive policies that would benefit all citizens. The course was held under Chatham House Rules so participants were free to talk openly and learn from different experiences in a safe space.

The course set out to train participants from all over the SADC region on conceptual issues related to social exclusion, marginalisation and inequalities; domains of social exclusion; how to combat social exclusion; and how to advocate on issues pertaining to social exclusion.

Professor Jimi Adesina was the overall facilitator and his wise and critical arguments made a huge difference by raising awareness among participants and sparking debate. The various modules were presented by a range of experts from across Africa, who came to Gaborone to share their knowledge with the participants, including Grown Chirongwe, Dr Onalenna Selolwane, Cherith Sanger, Dr Serges Djoyou Kamga, Professor Loren Landau, Chivuli Ukwimi and Ian Southey-Swartz.

Botswana-based guest facilitators, such as Dr Reginald Matchaba-Hove, Dr Gape Kaboyakgosi, Molefe Rantsudu, Tshiamo Rantao, Alice Mogwe and Dr Tshepo Sethunya Mosime, also added hugely to the course and gave practical guidance about the situation in Botswana in relation to health, justice and human rights – and how they are challenged by issues of social exclusion, marginalisation and inequality. These sessions led to very constructive dialogue among the participants and were – in many cases – real eye openers.

And there is no doubt that the course achieved its main aims – to deepen participants’ understanding of social exclusion, marginalisation and inequality; promote constructive dialogue; and begin to change mind sets – and that the participants left the course with tools and knowledge to start to challenge social exclusion, marginalisation and inequality in their home countries.

The course was extremely useful for me – and my fellow participants – and I would like to thank OSISA (and particularly the course organiser, Roshnee Narrandes) for putting it all together. Rea leboga!

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