“Isn't it about time that we met as equals?”

Wann werden wir wohl endlich aufhören, Afrika als armen hilfsbedürftigen Empfänger und uns (Europa oder „den Westen“) als gönnerhaften Geber darzustellen? Warum werden deutsche Jugendliche als handlungsfähig dargestellt, während afrikanische Jugendliche als handlungsunfähige Opfer ihrer Lebenswirklichkeit gezeigt werden? […] Ist es nicht an der Zeit, dass wir Schülerinnen und Schülern die Möglichkeit bieten, Schülerinnen und Schülern in Afrika auf Augenhöhe zu begegnen?

When will we finally stop depicting Africa as poor, needy receivers and ourselves (Europe or “the West”) as patronising donors? Why are young Germans portrayed as capable of taking action, while young Africans are seen as incapable victims of their environment? […] Isn't it about time that we offer schoolchildren [from Africa and Germany] the opportunity to meet as equals?

This is the question posed by Katrin Zinoun, Global Voices editor and freelance writer, translator, and lecturer, in a blog post from late June.

Her question concerns “Dein Tag für Afrika” (Your Day for Africa), a nationwide campaign organised each year by the German NGO Aktion Tagwerk. For one day, participating schoolchildren go to work, instead of going to school, and donate their wages to educational projects in African countries. According to the organisers, 181,000 pupils from 618 schools participated this year.

Analysing the campaign video, Katrin argues that it confirms stereotypes rather than challenges them. Communication does not take place on an even footing, and the campaign does not create opportunities for networking with young people from Africa, she finds.

With these observations, Katrin reminds us of Global Voices‘ mission. We often write about people who are marginalised, but it's wrong to believe we can speak for them. Instead, we should meet them with empathy, listen to them, and allow them to tell their own stories and set their own agendas. Only then can this “modern means of communication”, as Aktion Tagwerk calls the campaign, actually play an important role.

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