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Grass roots activists from around the world are at the Kennedy School this week for the International Bridge Builders Conference.
Activists from Tanzania, Gambia, India, Argentina, Albania, Serbia, China, Rwanda and Zimbabwe are sharing their experiences with each other and the Kennedy School community and attending a series of lectures, workshops and networking opportunities.
The conference will also include an internship fair Thursday for students interested in learning more about the activists and their work and in exploring opportunities to work with them. Conference organizers remind anyone interested that summer internship funding for these projects may be available from both the Summer Internship Fund and the Nancy Germeshausen Klavans Cultural Bridge Fellowships.
Activists have spoken on panels covering microfinance, political advocacy and women’s role in organizing for change, sharing their experiences with students and faculty. They have also had the chance to quiz each other.
During Tuesday’s panel on political advocacy at the grassroots, Mary Kondo, who has helped women in the Mt. Darwin district of Zimbabwe grow more diversified crops, asked panelist Besjan Pesha, from Albania, why his social movement in Albania was not silenced by the government before it grew into a more formidable organization.
The reason nobody silenced us while we were small was that nobody took us seriously – and we were lucky,” Pesha said, adding that his organization’s aims of social justice were seen as so ambitious as to be destined for failure.
The student-organized conference is designed to give grassroots leaders working on development issues a voice, to allow them to share resources and ideas and to build lasting bonds with the students, faculty and development organizations.
For additional information on the 2007 Bridge Builders Conference: A Grassroots Agenda for Change, visit their Web site.