Global Learning in Benin.

This week’s blog is written by #SDGchallenge coordinator Stephanie Kirwan and DP Public Engagement officer Deborah Conlon and outlines the first in a series of study visits with the GELP project.  


Photo by Andras Martoni.

Development Perspectives is the Irish partner organisation of GLEN (The Global Learning Education Network of Young Europeans). We were recently fortunate enough to spend a week in the fascinating country of Benin. Rich in culture, history and seemingly full of passionate people working for a better world – at least that was our experience.

Our reason for being there was to engage in the Global Education Learning Platform or GELP project. 25 practitioners from various parts of Europe and Africa came together with a goal in mind – how to create a global network founded in equality and respect. The week was intense, confusing and at times incredibly challenging.

Creating a platform based on understanding and equality, despite the best of intentions, is not an easy task – how can we recognise and include all of our different histories, contexts and perspectives and still start on an equal playing field?

With every training course, there are of course many challenging moments for a participant. These challenges can result for many reasons, one’s history, gender, past experience, cultural context and language barriers. However coming from a global learning perspective, these challenging moments should provide the space for learning.  A space to examine one’s opinion and question where exactly our own perspectives originate from. The GELP study visit promoted this space with ample opportunity to collaborate and discuss with other practitioners and dissect the core topics of the week. Along with the opportunity for more experiential learning with visits to local communities, the “route of slaves” in Ouidah and take part in a Multiplier Event with 40 representatives of Beninese NGOs.

The project began with the dominating question of the week; what is ‘Global Learning’? Theoretically Global Learning is concerned with exploring the interconnections between people and places around the world. The concept of Global Learning is seen to enable learners from diverse backgrounds and context to engage with complex global issues and explore links between their own lives, people, places and issues throughout the world. According to (DFED, 2005) Global Learning consists of eight key concepts which include Global Citizenship, Conflict Resolution, Social Justice, Values and Perception, Sustainable Development, Human Rights, Interdependence and Diversity.


Photo by Stephanie Kirwan.

In practice Global Learning involves so much more. Global learning is learning about and tackling the root causes of problems faced on a global level however when the consequences of these problems affect us in different ways how do we create appropriate solutions? We can’t, not without compromise. And we’re not saying that having to compromise is a bad thing, but it is a difficult thing. Concessions and acceptance need to be made in relation to privileges and inequality, and this can be the most difficult step in the process.

During the week in Benin this was the underlying obstacle to many of our discussions, the proverbial elephant in the room. It almost seemed to us that for some of the participants there was a frustration towards the participants from Europe for not fully understanding the scars left from colonialism, the European participants in turn felt personally targeted by the discussions around this historical events. What was interesting however was that when these emotions reached “boiling point” a real honesty emerged from the exchanges that took place, an honesty that should provide a constructive platform to go forward in the GELP project.

The next study visit will take place in the Czech Republic and will now doubt bring us closer to achieving this mammoth but crucial goal.

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