Press Releases

7th October 2020: Wangari Maathai Professorship

New GPN Guest Professorship named after Kenyan environmental and women's rights activist

The international 'Visiting Professorship' of the newly founded Global Partnership Network (GPN) is named after a prominent activist from Kenya - Wangari Maathai.

Wangari Maathai stands symbolically for her commitment to justice, environmental and human rights.

Wangari Maathai Portrait by the Beninois Artist Youss Atacora

Each semester, a guest professorship at the Research Institute is intended to promote international exchange and mediation and, within the framework of the GPN, to enable and strengthen the production of knowledge in partnership and mutual cooperation. In this sense, the GPN guest professorship is named after the Kenyan environmental and women's rights activist Wangari Maathai.

In her person, she united strong and diverse qualities that serve as a powerful role model. With this dedication, the Global Partnership Network wishes to honour these qualities. As an international scholar and activist, she stands symbolically for the relevance of the exchange between Global North and Global South. In addition to this work, she was involved in civil society from the very beginning, campaigning for human rights and especially for women's rights and became the central figure of the women's movement in Kenya, whose Women's Council she headed for many years. Under these circumstances, she succeeded in casting an important seed that combines various themes that are also close to the GPN: ecological, social, feminist and democratic concerns. In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement, which has since become a pan-African movement. By planting millions of trees, this impressive movement was able to tackle a variety of problems. Not only is reforestation is good for the environment, but the working and living conditions of local farmers have also improved and a more conscious approach to nature has been encouraged. However, this success was not achieved through international development programmes, but through local communities and grassroots movements, based on a worldview in which humans do not exploit nature, but recognise it as a source of life.

In 2004, she was the first African woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for her activist work in the movement. In the context of the current debate on climate change, Maathai was chosen as a person who has fought for a world that is fair to our climate. She also has fought with a strong sense of justice for the movement that started and grew with the planting of new trees. In her life as an activist, women's struggle and the environmental movement merge and are the roots of a movement that has since become successful. By naming the guest professorship after Wangari Maathai, the GPN draws inspiration from great personality as a role model for its priorities partnership in development cooperation, global economy in the context of climate justice as well as knowledge production and the enabling and strengthening of alternative knowledge from the bottom up.

1st September 2020: Tho­­mas San­­ka­­ra Scho­lar­ship

GPN names its PhD scholarship after Thomas Sankara

We are pleased to announce that the family of Thomas Sankara has kindly approved our wish to name the GPN PhD scholarships after him. Until his assassination, Thomas Sankara was president of Burkina Faso (1983-1987). With the naming of the GPN PhD scholarship after Thomas Sankara, we have established a perfect basis for drawing back on his concrete visionary politics when discussing concepts such as food sovereignty, gender equality, neo-colonialism or theories like Post-Development, Dependency and Post-Colonial Theories.

Painting of Thomas Sankara by the Beninois Artist Youss Atacora

Established in 2020, the Global Partnership Network (GPN) consists of university and civil society partners from Burkina Faso, Jamaica, South Africa, Senegal, Uganda, Ghana, Haiti, India, Ethiopia and Germany. The GPN calls attention to the shortcomings, limitations, and problematic aspects of international partnerships that have historically been shaped by colonial relations between North and South and sometimes continue to reflect them. Redressing this historical dynamic requires reconstructing the concept towards a partnership based on mutual recognition and solidarity, adequate to the multi-polar and postcolonial 21st century.

Besides producing e-learning tools, fostering research cooperations and implementing a wide array of workshops, the graduate program is one of the core activities of the GPN. The GPN grants 12 scholarships exclusively to PhD students from the global South in order to back Southern higher education knowledge production.

Our desire to name the scholarships after this outstanding personality Thomas Sankara goes back to his pioneering approach to global partnerships, which we consider as an inspiration for our own critical engagement with North-South as well as South-South relations. His resistance against neo-colonialism and his contributions to an emancipation and self-determination of the Burkinabè and further African people still inspires the African and international youth until today. In only four years of presidency, Sankara made the country independent of any food imports, brought numerous women into politics, rigorously fought elitism and corruption, made efforts to decentralize and democratize state power, stood up against odious debts, introduced the building of the great green wall in Burkina Faso and replaced the government fleet of Mercedes Benz by compact cars, while riding a bike to work himself.

Considering themselves as an organization and social movement with a Sankarist tradition, our Burkinabè CSO partner, the Balai Citoyen (in English: civic broom) is certainly placed best to provide an outstanding expertise on Sankara’s pioneering visions and policies. Therefore, inviting a speaker of the Balai Citoyen to a virtual graduate school seminar will be one of the first actions of our graduate school coordinator.