â€śI have found out that there is still a gap that needs to be filled. At the local level, there is an immense need to involve the minority community.â€?
Doris Koyabe reflects on what she has learned from Opening Doors.
Why did I join the shadowing scheme?
There were three simple reasons. First of all, politics affects everything we do from the water we drink to the things we buy. Why should we leave matters relating to our well being in the hands of politicians? I have always been interested in knowing how politicians and policy makers come to a consensus since they affect each one of us on a daily basis. Given that policies and the politics of a country go together, I thought this was the best way to experience exactly how decisions are made.
Secondly, being part of the minority community I felt that we are not well represented in the policymaking arena. I wanted to know what mechanisms have been put in place to involve the minority community in politics but even more so in decision making.
And thirdly, I wanted to know what we as the minority community are doing in order to get ourselves involved and recognized as one voice when it comes to integration and implementing policy.
I was delighted to shadow Councillor Dougie Kerr not only because he is involved with issues relating to equality and discrimination in areas such as employment, gender and race. But also because I got the opportunity to see how politicians connect with local government and how local government connects with people in the community.
Councillor Kerr gave me a tour of the council building, explained what happens at the council and gave me a glimpse of the councillorâ€™s daily routine schedule. As I shadowed him at different meetings, social gatherings and the full council meeting, I gained a better understanding of policy making.
What did I learn?
The image I had of politicians was a misconception. They have very busy lives and responsibilities that never seem to end. They have to go from one meeting to another and wherever they are â€“ whether it is a business meeting or a social gathering â€“ they are confronted with issues regarding decision making. Anyone can approach them and ask about anything and however trivial it maybe a lot of factors have to be considered. Basically it is very demanding and challenging and one has to be on top of things in order to succeed.
It may not seem significant to many people but now I know what newspapers to read in order to know whatâ€™s happening in the political scene â€“ to find out what I would call â€śpolitical gossipâ€?. If I need to adopt the political culture of this country, then I have to know where to get the information. This is not to say that the press is always right but it gives an insight into what each party is doing, positive or negative. At the end of the day itâ€™s up to an individual to decide what information to take from the media because it can be used to build or destroy the partyâ€™s image.
Most of all I have found out that there is still a gap that needs to be filled. At the local level, I feel that there is an immense need to involve the minority community. When I went to the full council meeting, my main concern was to see how the minority community would be represented in the meeting. I was surprised to see that they are so under represented.
For the future?
There is need to build up the participation of the minority community especially the blacks in this area. One may argue and say that the government is doing a great deal to integrate the minority communities in the system. But communication seems inadequate. How is information being transmitted to the minority community? Why is it that some minority communities are represented and not others? Who speaks on behalf of the minority communities in policy implementation? I feel there is a great need to examine inclusion of the minority communities in all aspects of policy implementation.
Women empowerment needs to be reinforced as well. Women are working hard in voluntary and community development projects but they also need to be directly involved with the policy makers.
But as much as I felt the minority are isolated, I also felt that we are not all working in unity with all minority communities to be one voice. United we stand and divided we fall.