Democracy and Human Rights Remain Essential In The Coronavirus Pandemic
Amidst the mounting impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, Forum Syd partnered with Wajibu Wetu partner Creative Spills for Raising A Sun poetry and music concert held on June 7 in Nairobi, featuring leading spoken word artist – Mufasa - and broadcasted live to more than six thousand people on Facebook Live and three thousand people on YouTube.
Themed Reimagining now and the Post-COVID World, Raising A-Sun employed art and culture approach to stir reflections and dialogues on democracy and human rights engaging diverse stakeholders in Kenya and beyond, reflecting and examining opportunities and challenges for forgotten voices in the response the coronavirus pandemic.
The challenging dynamics brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have not only wrought enormous personal, economic, and social damage but have had a great impact on human rights and democracy as governments around the world enforce strict measures to combat the pandemic risking a drawback of crucial democracy and human rights gains.
“Some African governments are using the pandemic as an excuse to infringe human rights and press freedoms, reversing the gains made in democracy and human rights at a faster than expected rate,” stated Jackson Obare, Hub Manager Forum Syd Hub ESA.
On his key remarks, Acting Ambassador and Deputy Head of Mission Swedish Embassy in Nairobi, Michael Hjelmåker emphasised that human rights remain the foundation of any civilised and democratic society and with the challenges brought upon by the coronavirus pandemic, human rights and democracy have never been more important.
“Global democracy was in decline even before the coronavirus pandemic. What we are seeing now with the pandemic is that there is a great risk that some of the core democratic values are being rolled back, scaled back and infringed upon,” said Michael before adding “That’s why the discussion like the Raising A-Sun here today is crucially important not only for Kenya but also globally.”
Lizzie Kiama, Managing Trustee This-Ability Trust stated that structural discrimination and isolation of People with Disability has been worsened by coronavirus pandemic. “The link between poverty and disability are interrelated with the majority of people with disability living below the poverty line,” said Lizzie. Lizzie further reiterated that the reality of this pandemic which has had a huge impact on the socio-economic situation compounding the poverty levels.
Mufasa offered a thrilling and sombre performance with five pieces Eyes Wide Shut, People's Prayer, My Boys are Dying, July and Unslaved all reflecting a range of issues from rising inequalities in times of COVID-19, systemic exclusion of young people, women and people with disability, and human rights violations especially police brutality and lack of accountability.
Just because it covers the mouth doesn’t mean masks are supposed to silence us. This COVID situation is unreal but people’s struggles are real.
“Piriton is not how you protect a child from being awake with hunger, we need sustainable solutions,” urged Mufasa from one of his poetry piece denoting the increasing cases of hunger and famine for vulnerable communities exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Young poet and youth activist Roger decried the systemic exclusion of young people in the Covid-19 responses and mechanisms and urged the government to enhance inclusivity and youth-focused solutions.
“We need the people in power to genuinely care about the youth. And not just care for the youths in the context of future votes, but genuinely take interest in their well-being,” urged Roger. He added, “We need to create structures that facilitate a conducive infrastructure for youth empowerment and enhance access to basic amenities like food, water and shelter to help lessen the burden.”
Catherine Khamali, Programme Manager Forum Syd Hub ESA belaboured the adoption of innovative approaches to holistically address emerging challenges and charting more adaptive paths. Catherine appreciated the role played by creative actors like Mufasa who employ poetry and music as innovative approaches to address democracy and human rights issues and further called for deliberate inclusion of marginalised voices in solutions.
“It is important to pay attention to the forgotten voices of young men and women and people with disabilities and the need for inclusion for everyone,” urged Catherine.
Respect for human rights across the spectrum, including economic and social rights, civil and political rights are fundamental to the success of effective responses to COVID-19.
Mufasa urged the need to create a world that is better for everyone. Ashley, the lead vocalist, in her rendition left the audience with an unforgettable message.
♫ We need to find a way to change tomorrow today. Change it for our children! Change it for the women! Change it for everyone! ♫
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