Six members, all from the global South, from left: Bassah Dominic, Angela Kimani, Andrea Sugai, Chantell Witten, Claudia Bocca, Agustino Wang
Isabela Sattamini reports: The Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos writes about what he calls 'the epistemology of the South'. He talks about the urgent need for the whole world to pay more attention to and learn from the South. For half a millennium and more, the countries of the global North have dominated and imposed their own methods and ideas. Regarding the world financial, environmental and social crisis, Boaventura de Sousa Santos says that it is only the global South that can present sustainable solutions. Well, this month our profiled members come from Africa, Latin America and Asia. There is much experience within their countries that needs to be shared and accepted as a leading part of public policies, including political and economic thinking and action. Here are some extracts of what they tell in their profiles:
Bassah Dominic: 'My journey through nutrition began when I finally settled on pursuing a degree in community nutrition at the school of medicine and health sciences at the University for Development Studies, Tamale, Ghana. With little knowledge about the course, my interest grew day by day as I journeyed through the four year course. The unique aspect of my course – a trimester programme – introduced me to the ugly magnitude of malnutrition and how bumper harvests do not necessarily translate into food and nutrition security among rural folks.'
Angela Kimani: 'Born and raised up in Kenya, my interest in nutrition started when I was still in high school. I wanted to know how to help poor communities prepare better meals and avoid diseases in which poor dietary patterns and feeding habits play a great role. This is because I believed most diseases can be prevented and or cured by good nutrition. I believed in the power of natural foods to maintain good health. I still do.'
Andre Sugai: 'I was born in Brasília – the capital of Brazil. It is an special country. There is an immense and intense mix of immigrants (Portuguese, African, Japanese, Italians, Germans, among many others) with the Brazilian native people. This mixture has also affected food systems and culture in general. Brazil is a big country with plenty of sunshine, fresh water and productive land. Nevertheless, a significant portion of the population lives in poor areas, and in recent times obesity has grown in our country. Over the last decades, this scenery has led to policy actions: hunger and poverty is nowadays part of the agenda of public policy priorities; and a long road of work is ahead of us.'
Chantell Witten: 'In 2001, I moved to the school of public health at the University of the Western Cape under the directorship of David Sanders. It was here that I learnt and experienced public health as a researcher in South Africa's first provincial vitamin A programme and South Africa's turbulent times as it implemented the first provincial prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV programme. And still today, the breastfeeding saga and debates continue. After my three-year tenure as the country director of Helen Keller International in Bangladesh, I returned to South Africa in 2009 to work with Mickey Chopra at the South African Medical Research Council. I am now currently the nutrition specialist with UNICEF in South Africa'.
Claudia Bocca: 'At the end of my Masters in 2010, I was invited to join the team most directly responsible for developing the food and nutrition municipal policy of Rio de Janeiro, with the prospect of starting my PhD in August of same year. Participation in the formulation of public policy was, without doubt, a call for political activism, the defence of certain values and the possibility to contribute to putting them into practice within the municipality. This made me fall in love with academia and scientific knowledge and, especially, understand the role of both in political activism.'
Agustino Wang: 'I was born in a small town called Tanjung Pinang, located in West Sumatra Province. My mother told me that I was born with weight less than 2.5 kilograms, but fortunately I grew normally to adolescence. It has been 20 years, but until today, I still can see infants that are born in low birthweight in my town. In a economically developing country like Indonesia, hunger and malnutrition still occur in poor areas. Thus prevalence of low birthweight infants, malnutrition, and deficiency diseases, are still high in Nusa Tenggara Timur. Besides that, nowadays obesity is increasing.'
How many different experiences and perspectives to learn from!