Madi Jobertah is a human rights defender from the Gambia. He has worked extensively with the media and development and voluntary organizations in the Gambia as well as around Africa and the world in promotion of democracy and human rights. As one of this year’s panelists, he will talk about his experience of having done a lot of work on sight, directly with the people he is helping.
Can you tell us something about yourself?
My name is Madi Jobarteh. I am from the Gambia and I am a human rights defender. I have spent more than 15 years social work including promotion and defense of human rights and civic awareness. I have extensively worked with the media and development and voluntary organizations in the Gambia as well as around Africa and the world in promotion of democracy and human rights. I have worked with organizations for youth, women, persons with disability, persons living with HIV/AIDS, children and journalists. My work is a manifestation of my passion and commitment to the empowerment of citizens to be the architects of their own destiny.
I am a highly self-motivated individual, highly innovative and results-oriented, with great potential in building, leading and working with teams. I uphold the principles and values of human rights, non-violence and peace, equality between men and women and the rule of law.
What are your own experiences with doing charity work?
In my work I have come to realize that individuals and communities desire better lives, freedom and ability to do things for themselves in order to change their lives. I have seen that the major obstacle preventing the people from determining their own lives and destiny is the overbearing presence of the state that is not democratic and accountable. It is only oppressive governments and governments with limited capacity that keeps people in poverty and deprivation. I have come to realize that when people have the right information then they get prepared to organize for their own benefit. In many of my community engagements I have seen how community members would speak of forming associations realizing that the power to change does not lie with individuals but with the group.
What are the results that you have seen by the charity work of NGOs in the Gambia?
Essentially the best and the most formidable result I have seen is the urge in the people to form associations so as to demand for goods and services and defend their rights as a group. Ultimately people come to realize that their best defense and progress lie in unity. It became clear to be me all the time that when individuals and communities are informed and organized then they become a strong force for change. I have seen this manifest in all sorts of groups I have worked with such as women, youth, persons with disability, persons living with HIV and other disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
How does doing charity work contribute to one's personal development and future career?
First of all, I do not agree with the term ‘charity’ work because it is a term that sees human beings as inherently helpless and victims by themselves. It then makes the ‘charity’ worker appear as a saviour or a Good Samaritan. Such terms cloud the inherent and embedded injustice and inequality consciously and deliberately created by the state, international organizations, religion, culture, politics, and media as well as the academia. People are poor not because they lack resources or skills, but because the laws, institutions and the entire system is flawed, unjust and against them.
Thus in my social empowerment work I have realized these injustices and inequality in all levels of society and systems. By that understanding, I have become a more fierce fighter for justice and equality. This has made me more humble, determined and an honest person. It has made me to better understand and appreciate those impoverished people and to see the challenges and opportunities that exist in society. It has also made me to realize my own potential to contribute to the creation of freedom, justice and equality in society. Thus my work gives me legitimacy and better freedom as a human being. It inspires me and strengthens me in my conviction for the creation of a just world.
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