Global Diversity Foundation

GDF has a dual mission. Through our regional programmes, we support indigenous peoples' and local communities' efforts to protect their biocultural diversity, and peacefully achieve just and autonomous decision-making regarding their territories, resources and futures. In collaboration with diverse institutions, we provide support for communities to elaborate their own research, development and advocacy programmes. Areas of specific focus depend on community interests, although they tend to be community access to lands and resources, community-led conservation, advocacy and campaigning for social and environmental justice, the continuity of ethnobiological and biocultural knowledge...
Oct 8, 2015

Buayan youth initiate fundraising drive

T-shirts for sale are available in blue and red.
T-shirts for sale are available in blue and red.

The youth from Buayan recently embarked on a fundraising drive, selling t-shirts to the Ulu Papar community and the general public in Kota Kinabalu. Proceeds from the sale will be channeled to the TAKADA taskfoce to cover activity expenses to fight the proposed Kaiduan Dam, which would flood Ulu Papar traditional territory. Indirectly, this drive is also an opportunity to carry out a peaceful campaign to raise awareness, particularly among government authorities responsible in preserving and conserving sacred and cultural sites in Ulu Papar that are important features for the state of Sabah. It demonstrates the power and strength of a united community that does not agree with the proposed dam.

Anne and Khairulfattah volunteered to design the t-shirts, with full support of other Buayan youth, and are also spearheading the sales of the t-shirts. The youth are hopeful for both advice and financial support from concerned parties, enabling them to continue efforts to object to the construction of the dam. Jenny, who has been involved in research activities and outreach efforts highlighting the biocultural heritage of Ulu Papar, says “We need to stand together to fight for our land; our traditional lifestyles are strongly intertwined with nature.”

The printing of the 200 t-shirts available for this drive was made possible through the generous support of GlobalGiving donors.

Oct 5, 2015

21 at 2015 summer academy join growing global network on transformative action

Reaching greater heights at the opening retreat
Reaching greater heights at the opening retreat

Following an intensive three weeks, GESA 2015 concluded on August 14th 2015, successfully completing our fifth summer academy. Participants departed the academy, held in Bern (Switzerland), infused with energy and purpose, celebrating newly found inspiration and the seeds of new collaborations sowed. The academy again delivered an enriching, transformative, and inspiring experience for both participants and organizers.

In this fifth year, 504 candidates applied from 94 countries. Following an intensive selection process, 21 participants joined GESA from all over the world: 5 from Africa, 3 from Asia, 5 from Europe, 5 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 3 from Northern America. These individuals collectively speak some 31 languages and come from diverse disciplines with exceptional academic backgrounds and broad practical experiences. They clearly possess the potential to become future environmental leaders. Our website has a portrait and profile of each participant, now integrated with the profiles of all other GESA alumni.

This year’s GESA again opened with a 2-day Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat in the Swiss Alps (image 1). This grounded the group in an experience of our ecological identities, and provided guidance and inspiration on how to establish this as a lens for experiencing the world. The group engaged elements of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s process for knowing the phenomenological world (image 2); the practices of Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects; mindfulness practices; and deep ecology methods.

The learning community that emerged in the retreat was engaged, self-reflective, and mutually supportive. It enabled considered and critical dialogue throughout the remaining GESA sessions, which included plenary lectures, roundtables, practical workshops, and field trips (see here for an overview of the various types of sessions held at GESA every year).

GESA evolves every year. In keeping with this tradition, the 2015 edition retained the strongest elements of previous academies while introducing innovations. As in previous years, the academy placed particular emphasis on honing communication of environmental solutions through the development and presentation of TED-style talks and the much-loved video communications workshop (image 3). Novel elements this year included plenary lectures from Alastair McIntosh, a Scottish writer, academic and activist who spoke on spiritual activism and Ashish Kothari, founder-member of the Indian environmental group Kalpavriksh, who spoke on environmental justice. They also joined forces for a dialogue on spiritual activism (image 4).

In keeping with tradition, we held an interim evaluation halfway through the three weeks, giving us the opportunity to hone the schedule and approach to immediate needs, followed by an in-depth anonymous evaluation at the end of the event. Our participants were, as usual, full of enthusiasm throughout the three weeks, and are looking forward to the future as part of the Global Environments Network:

“Wow. What to say. You are all amazing and each of you has touched me deeply. I feel so privileged to have been here and to feel like even a small part of your (our? this!) family and community. I love how this course breaks boundaries beyond the conventional. I love how it is flexible and … willing to risk touching upon what would not long ago have been considered "taboo" topics. The selection of participants and resource people was also brilliant. It really allowed us to both learn and see new worlds, but also to feel so at home and be able to express ourselves to a group of like-minded people to whom we did not feel we need to justify or explain ourselves or to defend our views. Many new skills were gained (highlights are how to give good TED-style talks!).”

“I hope that the lessons learned, friendships and partnerships forged, networks created, and the intangible values of communion will continue to resonate in the hearts, visions, and lives of everyone who was part of it. GESA reminded me that the future is bright.”

We are also please to share these blog posts by Gloria from Kenya on her experience at GESA 2015.

We would like to thank all of our donors who supported us through GlobalGiving, ensuring the participation of four outstanding individuals from all over the world at GESA 2015 and allowing us to grow the Global Environments Network.

Next steps…

In the five years since GESA was launched, we have grown a global action network of over 150 emerging changemakers from 52 countries – drawn from a pool of 1619 applications from 132 countries. We have established connections, ideas and collaborations that had – and continue to have – important practical outcomes for individuals, communities and environments around the world.

At this pivotal moment in GESA’s history, we are excited by the Global Environment Network’s immediate and sustained power to catalyse transformative reflection and action. We are also deeply motivated by our remarkable alumni who have called upon us to propel the Network forwards, galvanising the existing energy of its members and amplifying it to engender the profound shifts in the course our planet needs. In this next phase, we will focus on activating the Network by implementing regional academies and community exchanges, and boosting its “nuts and bolts” – the online networking and communications platform and the Alumni Innovation Fund. Watch this space for breaking news!

Detailed photo captions:

Image 1: Salvia Goethe Retreat facilitator Emily (centre) took participants to new heights with dynamic sessions in the Swiss Alps. (L to R) Sarah-Lan (Switzerland), Gloria (Kenya), Emily, Bryans (Uganda) and Serge (Benin).

Image 2: Janelle (Canada) reflects during a session on the Goethean method on the shores of Lake Oeschinensee.

Image 3: Heliodoro (Mexico), Mohamed (Bangladesh), Delicia (Peru), Chitradarsinee (Mauritius) work with Ruth (Germany; workshop leader) to interview Hasnaa (Morocco)

Image 4: Attentive GESA 2015 participants and GESA organizers Susannah McCandless and Gary Martin during a discussion session with Ashish Kothari and Alastair McIntosh.

Reflection during a session on the Goethean method
Reflection during a session on the Goethean method
Video communications workshop
Video communications workshop
Dialogue with Ashish Kothari and Alastair McIntosh
Dialogue with Ashish Kothari and Alastair McIntosh
Oct 5, 2015

Back to school at Dar Taliba

The library awaits young scholars.
The library awaits young scholars.

September has been a busy month at Dar Taliba, with staff returning to the boarding house and diligently preparing for the upcoming academic year. Now in its 16th year, Dar Taliba is a well established institution in the Ourika Valley with applicants surpassing the number of spots available. It has decidedly come a long way from its humble beginnings when only a few pioneer families entrusted the nonprofit with their daughters’ wellbeing and education. Last year, 36 girls staying at Dar Taliba graduated junior high school thanks to the boarding house’s support.

This year, the all-girls boarding school received 65 new applicants but can only accommodate half of them in addition to the returning students. This leaves the selection committee, comprised of members of the Association de Bienfaisance et de Développement du Bassin De l’Ourika (ABDBDO), the nonprofit co-sponsoring Dar Taliba, with difficult decisions to be made. As in previous years, priority is given to girls from the more remote villages of the Ourika valley where there are no education opportunities beyond primary school available within walking distance and public transport is scarce and usually beyond the families’ means. Under such circumstances, girls as young as 12 are left with no choice but to drop out of school. Driving along the roads in the area, it is very common to see young school boys standing on the sides of the roads hitchhiking their way back and forth to school; an option much less available to girls.

Before the students arrive, we took a moment to learn more about the staff and other organizations supporting the boarding house and the remarkable service it provides to the Ourika valley. Throughout the last two weeks of September, returning students and parents dropped by to register or apply for room and board at Dar Taliba where Jamila Boussata, the alumna from Dar Taliba’s first cohort who is now Director at the boarding house, holds office hours to answer questions and enroll the girls. She tells me with a smile on her face that ‘’This year Club des Clubs de Casablanca (CCC), [an association introduced to Dar Taliba through a local from the Ourika valley who works with them leading excursions in the High Atlas], has agreed to increase its support, sponsoring ten additional girls’ attendance of Dar Taliba and bringing the number up to 45 girls.’’ Despite efforts to keep costs as low as possible, room and board at the all-girls establishment comes with a 650 dhs annual fee (equivalent to $67) which is beyond the means of the area’s most underprivileged families.

So, 112 girls will be arriving at Dar Taliba on 5 October when Jamila will assign them to the 14 rooms in groups of 8. They will be introduced to the house rules, including an 8pm curfew. Saida Marzoug, who has been supervising the girls at Dar Taliba since 2011, and Aicha Outghould, head cook at Dar Taliba since it opened its doors in 1999, will work with the girls on a clean-up and cooking schedule. With only 4 permanent staff members, the boarding school depends on contributions from the girls, who make their beds every morning and do their dishes to help the house run smoothly.

In addition to the co-ed middle school neighboring Dar Taliba where the girls presently study, a high school is currently being built within walking distance and will open its doors to students next year. This will vastly improve the local youth’s educational opportunities, eliminating the need for many of them to move or commute to the nearest high school at present, 20km away in the town of Tahanout.

The staff shared that Dar Taliba and its gardens have become a space for a variety of uses, including hosting local school camps. One camp saw students staying on the grounds this summer for two weeks in August. Abdelmalek Ait Mojaaddark, gardener at Dar Taliba since it first opened, told me they, too, had made a contribution to the garden. He pointed to two young olive trees the schoolchildren planted with him during a gardening workshop he led during their stay. Dar Taliba is also open two mornings a week to two groups of 15 preschoolers, whom we hope can also enjoy and learn from the garden.

On a less positive note, Abdelmalek said that as of this summer, Dar Taliba no longer benefits from the free water that was once donated by the commune, cutting water to the grounds by half and putting the garden under particular stress during dry seasons. Though the garden is designed to be highly drought-tolerant, GDF plans to dedicate a portion of the donations to this project to restore part of that water flow to the garden, especially during peak dry spells. With new garden users on the way, we are excited to continue growing our relationship with Dar Taliba. 

Jamila speaks animatedly with Abdelmalek.
Jamila speaks animatedly with Abdelmalek.
Students arrive back to Dar Taliba on 5th October.
Students arrive back to Dar Taliba on 5th October.
 

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