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The major theme of Campus Plein Sud this year focuses on the heros in "the South". Mundus maris centres its contribution on the many unsung heros who promote development and solidarity in their communities on a daily basis and do much to improve living conditions. They may not be widely known, but without them, development would advance much more slowly.

  • 11 March 2015, 16h00 to 18h00 Open Course with Prof. Ariane Ramaekers: UB4.228 (Campus Solbosch, Building U; Gate B; 4th floor; Room 228)
  • 12 March 2015, 19h00 Film debate with drinks about women in fisheries in Senegal featuring a video interview with Awa Seye, a local and national leader in small-scale fisheries: Room H3244 Campus Solbosch - jointly organised with Campus en Transition.

You are welcome to share this experience with us. Watch this space.


Open Course - The unsung heros of the South in the struggle for sustainable development

Setting local activities and living into the wider context of the global structure and interaction between the ocean and the land - this was the key concern of the course given by Cornelia E Nauen and Aliou Sall of Mundus maris. The talk started by sharing some key parameters about these two large and diversified spaces that make up our living environment.

Prof. Ariane Ramaekers had invited Mundus maris again to give an open course to her class "Biology and Society". this was part of the Campus Plein Sud Programme at the Free University Brussels (ULB).

The talk started with a global overview illustrated by Cornelia E Nauen. Did you know that 71% of the surface of the Earth is covered by the ocean? This is why it's called the Blue Planet when you look at it from space. Did you know that the deepest trench in the ocean - the Mariana Trench - is deeper than the highest Mountain towers into the sky - Mount Everest? Did you know that we produce enough food for more than the 7 billion humans we are today? How come that almost one billion go hungry and more than one billion is seriously overweight?

Did you realise that social inequality and denial of legitimate rights is now probably the most serious obstacle to living sustainably and in tune with the land, the ocean and fellow humans? Research has shown blatant inequality to be a major source of waste and destruction.

These and other questions and information formed the context from which Aliou Sall homed in to tell the story of Awa Seye, an important leader in artisanal fisheries in Senegal, midwife and municipal councillor in her native Saint Louis.

The images tell a touching story and bring some of the physical and cultural conditions to live which might otherwise be difficult to understand only in terms of "cold" data.

The talk, that nicely turned more into a questions and answers exchange. Perhaps the most important message coming across was that many of the current crises and problems identified are not so much the result of a global conspiracy than the result of millions of small decisions. These may individually be harmless, even adapted to context. But altogether they create global effects.

Turn this insight around and find that even though any individual alone can not "solve" these really big and now interconnected crises in social, environmental and economic terms, but jumping to the conclusion not to do anything is a big mistake. Collectively we do have the chance to change for the better.

So, let's start - letting the baby fish grow to maturity - practising solidarity with the socially weak - recognise other cultures - saving energy to stabilise our climate - stop using plastic bags to avoid choking the ocean and its magnificent creatures.

That's a good way to start every day, every week, month and year! The ppt presentation (FR) is available here.

A hero from "the South" - Awa Seye, leader of the women in artisanal fisheries in Senegal

Film debate

So short after International Women's Day (8 March) it was just the thing to do - present the video-interview with Awa Seye, leader of the women in artisanal fisheries in Senegal in which she tells her quite extra-ordinary story.

So, who is this unsung hero of "the South"?

She lost three children in child birth but then became a midwife, saving many newborn babies and their mothers. She faced many obstacles before carving out a role for her as a successful entrepreneur of her family fishing business.

She struggles with fellow women fish processor to keep access to essential beach space for their fish processing business defending it against encroaching tourism.The women are very resourceful and support each other.

She actively defends the rights and needs of her community of Guet NDar in Saint Louis in the municipal council.

She may not have had the chance to go to school but she is second to none in defending the interests for safety and healthy resources of the fishermen all over the country and promotes sending girls and boys to school now to open up additional opportunities for their futures.

She also claimed greater political attention to the lot of the small-scale fishers who represent a large chunk of the national economy and a representation in the national assembly in order to become a more active and recognised part of the political decision-making process.

The interview lasted barely 20 minutes, but the ensuring lively debate went on for about two hours! Aliou Sall, Senegalese socio-anthropologist knows Awa Seye personally for many years and was able to give additional explanations about the living conditions in the fishing communities and their daily struggle. He also spoke about the erosion of authority at many levels and how this was making it difficult to reign in overcapacity and a gradual degradation of the natural and social environment.

Many speakers in the exchange recognised that these development issues were not merely of a technical but also of a political nature.

How can groups and entire countries define and defend their interests effectively in the face of strong financially and institutionally backed opposition from others? Should African groups and countries do more to shape international negotiations or is it enough to tag along once e.g. an economic partnership agreement has been agreed?

What else could be done to enhance the role and rights of women? Giving greater reach to their voices through e.g. such video interviews that recognise their role as social actors in their own right is certainly a step in the right direction.

The film debate was organised by Campus en Transition and Mundus maris as part of Campus Plein Sud 2015 at the ULB on 12 March. Watch the video with Awa Seye for yourselves on the YouTube channel of Mundus maris here.