By Biruh Misganaw
It was last year September 2010 that I got the chance to participate in BarCamp event. For me it was a whole new experience. Likely I was involved from the very beginning. We were going to companies to ask for sponsorship. At the time many people were not aware of BarCamp. Some people were asking if we are going to open a bar, others were not comfortable to sponsor us since we don’t have specific speakers, some others didn’t like the fact that the speaker (session presenter) could be any one and not necessary a high profile person……and much more. And these all thing was not a new thing for me.
I was born and grew up in Ethiopia, a country with a vast culture and heritage. But not all our culture and heritages are correct; like everyone’s. I was raised in a society where people are mostly considered as impolite if the stand up and say something about the thing that they don’t know well. This things make you feel frustrated and not to stand up and share your ideas with people. You rather prefer to wait for the popular and famous person to come and make a speech.
At the first Barcamp we were able to host more than 20 sessions. There were sessions which were organized by famous people, at the same time there were sessions prepared by university students. These include the mekele university student session (One Book for One person) it reminds me of the famous Ethiopian guy, Yohannis Gebregiorgis who is the winner of the 2008 CNN Hero Award. He started the project called Book For All by collecting more than 15,000 donated books from abroad and he distributed it for many Ethiopian kids in the country side. I never expected that this could be possible for me or for a student like me to start this kind of project, because when I think of these kind of things the only thing that comes to my mind is, that it will be difficult for me to convince people to donate money for such kind of things because I am young, I am not famous, I am not rich,….. but the mekele students manage to do it. After their session they got many books and they distribute it to students in mekele.
The other was the women role models session. I was involved in this session. We discuss about different issues concerning women in higher educational institutes in Ethiopia. We had more than thirty participants at the session; most of them were female university students. Two weeks after our session I met a girl who wants to establish girls club in our institute, she was part of the barcamp session. It was so surprising for me that girls club was going to be established in our institute, because I have studied in that institute for five years and we knew that most female students suffer because of sexual harassments, financial problems, HIV Aids, unwanted pregnancy…. But we never had a girls club which could involve and help female students. This was because we all the time think individually, and we feel frustrated to raise and share our ideas in public, plus we never get the stage to share our ideas out loud. But with BarCamp it was possible. There were many other amazing sessions. Unlike other events that I was involved BarCamp Ethiopia was different in that it was not only a two days thing then everyone went back home with their free t-shirt, but we had a visible out come out of it. And this happened because we involved and focused on the community. Most youngsters was able to host a session regardless of their being a student, inexperienced …etc. it was an environment where everyone was able to stand up and say what they feel without the fear for perfection. For me BarCamp Ethiopia is new thing which give a stage for the un-heard voices and for everyone to interact and share ideas. And these kinds of events are very vital for a country like Ethiopia, where open discussions are not common at all. I am looking forward for the next BarCamp.
Together We Can!!!