The month of march has passed, and this means so has the Open Min(e)d week. Previously known as the ‘Academic Week’ by Catapistas, and lasting from the 4th of March until the 9th of March the week can definitely be considered a success. All in all we were able to reach an audience of over 1300 people spreading over more than 20 lectures at universities and university colleges and 8 activities directed towards a larger public. With the three guest speakers at our side and the support of many catapistas and partner organisations we have turned the week into a huge success! But who were the speakers in question?

Gloria Chicaiza (Ecuador)
Gloria came to Belgium with her story about the Cordillera del Condor, a mountain range in the Andes that is being threatened by a Chinese mining project. As part of Acción Ecologica, an Ecuadorian NGO, she fights for ideals of ‘buen vivir’, and ecological and social justice.

Margarita Aquino (Bolivia)
A story about forced eviction, suffering under the unbelievable threats that mining poses for her community; that is what Margarita was here to talk about. She shared with us her experiences from the Bolivian Altiplano. Touching upon women’s rights as well as extractivism, she continues to oppose the mining activities in her region and hopes for a more sustainable future for her children and grandchildren.

Mariana Gomez (Colombia)
Mariana is deeply involved in the movement against the destruction of nature and culture by large-scale mining. Her own village, Tolima, was threatened by the La Colosa mining project and she helped the social resistance movement by linking them to other organisations outside her community. Mariana has been explaining how the use of the legal consulta popular mechanism has led to a boom of consulta populares in Colombia becoming an inspiring example for the region.

We used to call this week the ‘Academic Week’, and for good reason. Presenting guest lectures in universities and university colleges across Flanders. We were able to bring our three interesting speakers to many different places, reaching students from environmental management to social work and students studying business management. The questions raised by the students throughout the lectures were varied and prove the importance of reaching out to different audiences.

However, we do not only want to reach students throughout this international speakers tour. Therefore, we worked together with a broad variety of civil society organisations, to organise various public events. To kick the entire Open Min(e)d week off we had quite a unique event on Sunday 4th of March in collaboration with other organisations in Gent: Breakfast with a Rebel. During the morning we welcomed people to come and have breakfast in the ABVV in Ghent whilst listening to the stories and experiences that our 5 rebels had to share. From CATAPA’s side, Gloria Chicaiza and Margarita were explaining why they form part of resistance movements in their home countries.

On International Women’s Day we co-organized a Mo*café, No Woman is an I-land, where 5 women were sharing their work regarding a more sustainable and peaceful future, including our guest speaker Mariana Gómez. The others present that evening were Jane Zelfo (from the Palestinian Organisation Musalaha), Anat Ben David (an activist at Women Wage Peace), Homa Arkani (an Iranian artist and activist) and finally Alisa Vinogradova (an activist of Femen Ukraine).

Special during this speakers tour was that we co-organized with KULeuven and People and Planet a Symposium on Challenging the Sustainability of the ICT Supply Chain as part of the Make ICT Fair project. We were not only talking about mining but also manufacturing, all the way through to public procurement. In this afternoon we were able to listen to many different inspiring speakers from public procurers, civil society organisations, research and affected communities, including our own guest speaker: Mariana Gómez.

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