My ITEC Experience at EDI
For me, coming to India is a dream come true. Though I have visited some Asian nations around this largest country in the hemisphere – Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the thought of staying in India for a period exceeding one month was never envisaged. For the first time in my life, I saw in real life, those beautiful scenes and people of India: The rich, the poor and the middle class. I witnessed also the unending flow of human heads that indeed makes India the most populated nation on earth.
And arriving at the campus of the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, EDII was another exciting experience of my life. The Institute itself is an epitome of structural layout, with a serene environment inhabiting wailing animals and birds. For me and many of my colleagues, nothing can be more environmental-friendly like EDI (as it’s fondly called). The regular visits of the monkeys, the wailing of the peacock and the undying chanting of the birds are quick reminder of the African deep jungle. For me it is like ‘a home away from home’.
And for the main business, it is most rewarding for me to be at EDI studying Governance and Management of NGOs. Though I work with the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, WANGO, an umbrella organization serving and connecting NGOs worldwide, touring many nations across the globe and talking about NGOs, I however experienced for the first time, a more structured academic exercise that only few individuals or institutions have offered in the past. The course content was arranged in such a manner that its suits all strata of participants – the beginners, intermediate and the professionals – taking back home, one of the most important aspect of human endeavour: learning to serve others.
One of the greatest opportunities I gained from this six-week exercise is sharing with 26 participants from different nations and backgrounds. They represent in my mind the ‘United Nations of EDI’ from Africa to Europe to Asia, Southern America and to the Persian Gulf. As a mixed bag of ideologies, cultures and traditions, one cannot but appreciate our differences. I know many (if not all) remain grateful to the Government of India through its Foreign Ministry and EDI for this epoch visit. And choosing and working with them as the Group Leader is one phenomenon that will ever remain green in my mind. Our associations these past weeks are better summed up as participants, colleagues and a family.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this trip will be my inputs to whole programme and exercise. As a charity volunteer, I saw many gaps that need to be filled. The opportunity to teach one of the subjects on Networking and Volunteering and serving as one of the ‘faculty members’ is for me a fulfilled dream. I am particularly grateful to the Course Director; Dr. Santosh Kumar for the encouragement and support. Dr. S. Tripathy was also an inspiration to note. Also is the opportunity to share my knowledge and authority about English language with fellow colleagues from non-English speaking nations and the India students at the campus. Again, the opportunity to share WANGO’s ideals especially the international Code of Ethics and Conduct for NGOs with participants and faculty members alike are satisfying gestures. The stay was also an avenue to meet with few and discuss with WANGO’s over 100 member NGOs here in India.
Adding life to the ever-crowded lectures is a heart-warming study tour, which took all the participants to about three (3) different states in northern India. After a hectic three-week academic exercise, the study tour, no doubt serves as a refresher for most of us because as it is said “All work and no play…” EDI provided us one of a rare opportunity to visit some of the best scenes in the world, including the ‘The 7th Wonder’ - Taj Mahal and the residence of Mahatma Gandhi, The Great Ahimsa of India. From Ahmadabad to Udaipur to Jaipur and Agra are sites upon sites to behold. And rounding up at Jodhpur and Mount Abu is for me a ‘deliberate attempt’ to make everyone comes back to India. It is unimaginable how human beings had lived with so much knowledge, exposition and mastery in the era when no technologies exist. Visiting such India outstanding NGOs such as SAATH, SEVA Mandir, GRAVIS and others added more value to the entire programme as it was a time to experience the issues practically as they were taught in the classrooms. Again, meeting such great Indian human rights activists, Gagan Sethi, Dr. Rajesh Shah and Sachin Oza among several others inspired me greatly.
My conclusion is that with this type of Bilateral support coming from the Foreign Ministry of India, there are great potentials for better diplomatic relations with all countries of the world. The Special Adviser to the Executive President of Nigeria, Prince Chineme Ume-Ezeoke on whose directive I came, and WANGO Secretary General, who incidentally shares his first name with the ‘7th Wonders’, Mr. Taj Hamad and the teeming society of non-profit leaders worldwide are very pleased to learn about these positive developments since my arrival here. And connecting with others such as my Coordinator at the WANGO United Nations Office of Affairs in New York, Dr. Frederick Swarts and Mr. Jean-Jacques Schull, the IDAY (International Day of the African Child…and its Youth) Coordinator in Belgium were all at hand to provide support for my work here.
My future plan will be to visit India again, share my experience and network with more NGOs towards solving India basic problem of poverty, reducing the menace of caste system and more integration of the people into the 21st century world. EDI could be encouraged to engage more female faculty members. Such good outing by Ms. Meena Bilgi, the only female faculty member is something to serve as a reference point. The Institute should also take into consideration that the world is larger that India, and as such resource persons from other nations should be engaged to share their experience with others. This way, the programme will no doubt be recognized as truly international.
However, I will be guide by the fact that India remains one of the largest nations in the world, second largest in population and the best in terms of communication technologies, with huge human and material resources. The best way for accelerated development may be for the intellectuals of the nations, particularly the human right activists to look beyond their borders.
Mohammed Bougei Attah
*Attah is the Africa Regional Coordinator for WANGO and the Managing Editor of NGO Network, a general interest magazine for the non-profit sector in sub-Saharan Africa.