[Voor Nederlands, zie hieronder] On September 1st, the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) organized the first annual Power of Knowledge event. Knowledge Center Global Health sponsored 30 tickets for students to attend this event and be inspired by its many speakers and attendees. In addition, students attended a writing workshop and were asked to write a reflection on the Power of Knowledge event. Out of all the reflections, we selected five pieces to be published. See below to gain insight into these students’ thoughts and beliefs, and be inspired by their passionate accounts of this incredible event!
Op 1 september organiseerde het Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KIT) het eerste jaarlijkse Power of Knowledge evenement. Het Kenniscentrum Global Health sponsorde 30 tickets voor studenten om dit evenement bij te wonen en zich te laten inspireren door de vele sprekers en aanwezigen. Daarnaast volgden studenten een schrijfworkshop en werden zij gevraagd een reflectie te schrijven over het Power of Knowledge evenement. Uit alle reflecties selecteerden we vijf werken om gepubliceerd te worden op onze website. Hieronder kunt u de vijf stukken lezen om inzicht te krijgen in de gedachten en overtuigingen van deze studenten, en om je te laten inspireren door hun gepassioneerde verhalen over dit top evenement!
Returning to Land and Paying for Meals: KIT’s First Edition of the Power of Knowledge Event
Gina L. Melis
14 September 2022
What do we consider knowledge? Who gets to produce knowledge? To what end do we produce knowledge? These were some of the questions raised during the KIT Power of Knowledge event on September 1st, 2022. Knowledge Center Global Health sponsored 30 tickets for students and young professionals to attend the event, enjoy a writing workshop with The Online Scientist, and get a chance to publish their reflections on their learnings. Of course, we attended the event ourselves, and have much to share about what the inspiring speakers and performers taught and showed us.
In the morning of the event, after words of welcome by Lindy van Vliet, and Pascalle Grotenhuis, the audience listened to three brilliant keynote speakers: Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Dr Samuel Oji Oti, and Dr Zuleika Bibi Sheik.
Dr Wanjiru speaks about colonial history and reminds us that it is not as far in the past as we like to believe. Her grandmother was born shortly after this building was completed (on the back of Dutch colonial violence), and colonialism still determines who gets to create knowledge. Take climate justice, for example, she says, “climate reports have an Africa shaped gap”. European and North American institutes receive 78% of global funding to conduct research on climate change, leaving out scientists in African (as well as Asia, the Americas, and small island states across the world), who most certainly have the skills and desire to help understand what climate change might look like. Dr Kamau-Rutenberg says: “There can be no decolonising of knowledge until we address the serious disparities in who has access to resources to produce knowledge.”
Dr Samuel Oji Oti continues and notes the deeply intrenched power imbalances in the field of Global Health. While many researchers and practitioners might believe that they are altruistic, he says, these powerful imbalances continue to dominate the field of Global Health – a field that Dr Oji Oti notes is “meant to embody equity”. And while he is grateful to the field of Global Health for what it has done for his continent and for himself as a person, “it’s not all been roses and fairies”. He states that the field of Global Health has been “marred by institutionalised differential treatment of practitioners in less powerful countries” and that “our grandparents and their parents were subjugated using guns, chains, and whips, while we [Global Health practitioners from (what he calls) less powerful countries] have been subjugated using emails, Zoom, and grant proposals”. He is on a mission “to mobilise African voices to speak out about what we perceive as the manifestations of coloniality in Global Health”. One of the outcomes of this work is a brilliant publication called Pragmatic Approaches to Decolonising Global Health in Africa, which offers practical steps and actions practitioners and organisations in High-Income Countries can take to contribute to the decolonisation of Global Health.
The final keynote speaker, Zuleika Bibi Sheik, opens with a poem. The title of her talk is Decolonial Discomfort. She notes that we cannot build equitable partnerships, inclusive, sustainable societies without discomfort. White privilege, race, colonisation, slavery, patriarchy, intersectionality, identity – these words, these notions, they all bring us discomfort. They make us insecure and in response, we deflect, with anger, aggression, gaslighting. Zuleika says that we must “move through this discomfort to find the fertile ground that could potentially nurture equitable partnerships”. While the work required to move through this discomfort will be different for all of us, the goal should be the same: to reach out for relations. Finally, Zuleika notes that decolonisation is “about land as much about returning land as it is about returning to land”, and as such, the first partnership we must heal and learn to nurture is that with land. She closes with a quote by Robin Wall Kimmerer “knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend, and protect, and celebrate. But when you feel that earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond”.
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