| Wednesday, November 22, 2006
| I should have used Pankhurst
|In 1995, I researched the possibilities of making traditional organizations like edir (burial associations) and equb (the cool rotating-credit-without-interest system) partners of development organizations. I examined the organizational structures of the traditional organizations in one region in Northern Ethiopia and selected NGOs working in the country. Surprisingly, the traditional organizations are democratic with the members on top of the organizational chart and the CEO all the way down. NGOs have the opposite – never mind the "we-are-governed-by-our-contributors" marketing line. My recommendation to the organization that sponsored the research was "you're damn fool if you don't make traditional organizations your development partners, especially in the program design stage". Well, not exactly in those words.
My argument then and still today is this. It's a shame that the first Western or Western-like local NGOs totally missed an opportunity to use these traditional organizations and the wealth of local knowledge they had. Imagine the amount of money, time, energy that would have been saved if this local knowledge was used instead of sending foreign “experts”. The face of relief and development would have been different today.
It's good to hear now that edirs are now being considered as key players for the living too. At this juncture I have to say – I told you!
However, I disagree with the following claim of Ethioblog that…
Until recently, the burial societies were focused solely on providing for a member's funeral, and in much of Ethiopia that is still the case. However, a number of them, shocked by the mounting toll of AIDS on their membership, started looking at what they could do to tackle the problem.
According to my 11 year old findings (rubbing it in further and enjoying it, too), these traditional organizations were doing what NGOs are now doing in Ethiopia before Derg. They built roads, schools, bridges and renovated schools etc. Of course, such high level organization is a threat to paranoid dictators and the pursuit of basic necessities can cross into political territory. For this reason, the Derg systematically reduced edirs to their original purpose – just take care of the dead. Therefore, I would say that they have come a full circle now by tackling HIV/AIDS.
Now the test for the current government is going to be what they are going to do when edirs get more organized and start challenging policies and go into other areas linked to HIV/AIDS policies. Time will tell us that for sure.
Meanwhile, I try to do something about the regret I feel right now about not asking Mr. Pankhurst himself who is the authority on Ethiopia to endorse my research paper. Only then, would have people taken my research seriously. He said this about edirs…
"Ethiopia is a very top down society," said Addis Ababa University's Dr Alula Pankhurst, a social anthropologist who has researched the role and history of edirs. "So, if you take as your premise that something as devastating as HIV/AIDS [and poverty, The Concoction sneaked in] has to be tackled at the grassroots level, then the edir is the only answer."
Edir & Equb: the earliest NGOs in Ethiopia
Advocating for expansion of Edir & Equb
Diaspora using home grown talents
Edir in Denmark
Using edir & equb for politics
Assimilation of voluntary organizations into political organizations
|posted by Fikirte @ 1:41 PM