Saturday, 23 October 2010

Workshop on Inclusion

28-30 September 2010
This blog post can be better understood by the people who are working in the development sector. The terminology becomes more vague when one starts talking the language of development sector. "What the hell this development and inclusion means?", will ask a non development person. This is all about an interesting workshop which I attended in the last week of September. It was more related to my job as a volunteer and helped me to increase some of my personal knowledge as a development worker.
The workshop was held in a nice comfortable Miklin Hotel in the beautiful city of Kumasi. It was meant for bringing awareness about the concepts of inclusion amongst the volunteers and their employer organizations. VSO works through volunteers with various government and non government organizations in the sectors of secured livelihoods, education, participation and governance. There are certain thematic areas which cut across all the sectors such as HIV-AIDS and inclusion, so a volunteer working in any of the areas is expected to work on these themes and integrate them in his (or her) work.
Now coming to the real meaning of the words, development in the context of development field means the process of equitable growth of a society through fulfilment of human rights. Inclusion means process of promotion of equal rights, access and opportunities for everyone. The workshop revolved around those concepts. Various subjects related to development and inclusion were covered through teaching methods such as group discussions, role plays and picturisation. These subjects include, dimensions of inclusion, barriers to inclusion, ways of achieving inclusion, inclusion audit and rights based approaches to inclusion. In the process of development, many sections of the society get excluded due to various reasons. There are discriminations based on gender, race, religion, caste, disabilities etc. Some get left out because of economic poverty and geographical reasons. Identifying these sections of the society and working towards their inclusion in the process of development is the main job of any development worker.
There were many limitations to the workshop however because of the way VSO works. Since VSO places the volunteers with the organizations and there is very little control over the individual work plans of the volunteers and the organizational/ project work plans of the employer organizations. There is no assurance about the incorporation or implementation of the concepts learned in these workshops or training programs in the actual work of the volunteers and the organizations.
For me particularly it was very useful because I am working at the strategic and planning level where I have a scope to discuss those ideas and persuade people to incorporate those ideas. It surely is a difficult task to integrate them in any of the on-going projects without an organizational level initiative. I doubt about many people from the partner organizations, who had attended the workshop, whether they would be able to really take the concepts forwards with self motivation and by convincing their respective bosses in the organizations.
Something about TnT now. Ghana is a hot spot for international NGOs and funding agencies, as it is located in the ecologically vulnerable sub Saharan Western Africa. It also has advantage of having the most stable democracy and active government in the whole of West Africa. This flood of help from international agencies mean that people from local NGOs and government keep on attending workshops every now and then. The people who are arranging those workshops want them to be successful in terms of their attendance and they give every participant with some allowance which usually covers more than what they spend on food, transportation and accommodation. This system is called TnT- Time and Travel and even if some people not spend a single pesewa while attending those workshops, will expect something to be paid in return for the attendance. Many people sit in those workshops boringly waiting for the last day for their TnT to be paid. I heard an interesting story about workshop where people were sitting there for two consecutive days without taking any notes during the sessions and on the final day when one of the facilitator started giving references from the bible, everybody started to note them down.
VSO was not exception this time as it had to follow the culture of TnT though it could not promote it. Otherwise I think there would be problems with the organizations where volunteers are working as they might not receive very good co-operation from their colleagues with no TnT paid to them. As VSO also needs their partner organizations to participate in their workshops and receive good co-operation from them in the future, it can't just stop giving out TnT. I think VSO did not want to give TnT to the people but still could not let them go without TnT as well. A solution to this problem was worked out by paying them an amount equivalent to the spending on the dinner in the classy Miklin Hotel instead of giving them dinner. This served people with the amount which could be saved by eating some food on the street or some cheap eatery and could be considered as TnT.
I think this TnT system will stop only when some big donor agency or the government itself says a firm no to it.