How to change Slovaks’ perception of development

How many online blogs do we need in order to change East Europeans’ perception and understanding of the life in developing countries? Apparently a lot. But the setup of another online blog platform in Slovakia or Hungary will not change the lack of interest of East European citizens about development topics and global issues. There were several projects in Visegrad area (the area of Hungary, Poland, Slovak & Czech republic) in order to improve that situation and to change this approach, but I’m not satisfied with the results…

For example there was the project „V4 Aid – United Support for Millenium Development Goals“ with a specific objective – to achieve more independent and pro-active involvement of the target groups in influencing the national ODA policies towards the ultimate objective of poverty focus. Among project’s activities we could find:a joint field trip for decision makers to a developing country (for national MPs); a distance e-learning course for journalism students (I was part of it and almost any of my former fellows are writing about development now); several grants for journalists for a journey to a developing country (let’s call it: “exotic trip for free” – for prioritized big national media: radio & TV stations, few newspapers – without any kind of follow up or future interest in covering development without stereotypes, discrimination, misunderstanding)… I can give you an example – how the journalist from private television TV JOJ made the “reportage” about production of shea butter in Burkina Faso.

Thanks to European Journalism Center (EJC): “A Guide to reporting development” was produced and translated to four East European languages (Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Slovak). In 2011 I prepared a grant proposal for Annual call on Development education topic (part of Slovak ODA / Slovak Aid supporting scheme) – in order to link media production and development properly; to raise awareness about development issues among universities’ students (this is also the topic of my PhD.-thesis at Palacky University), but we didn’t get funding (unfortunately, at that time it was not a priority).

I didn’t give up my approach to change mind-set of Slovak people and to write about development topic. So I set up my own online blog platform (I’m trying to cover several areas of development cooperation, humanitarian assistance, community work, global education, social work) in Slovak and English language. But soon or later the work on this blog-page will require financial support (for deeper investigation, complex research, interviews in the field, follow up activities, updates of stories). Working on it on voluntary basis (and work & study somewhere else at the same time) – it has become more and more difficult for me.

I worked as development field worker in Kenya last year (fortunately, I was paid for my work by my sending organization – Trnava University). Thanks to this work in the field I could cover many stories, cases and topics from Sub-Saharan region. Even if my articles were long and not easy to read (not many happy-ends inside the the stories) they got the attention of thousands of Slovak readers. It is good sign, isn’t it? Thanks for that I was voted as one of the most influencing bloggers of Year 2013. Few weeks ago I also received National Journalism Award (organized on annual basis by Open Society Fund) for my blogs about development issues, called “Lekcie rozvoja / Lessons of Development”.

Slowly slowly I am getting there (thanks to the cooperation with photographer and cinematographer Palo Markovic from our DocUnion NGO) by providing public discussions, movie-projections, photo-exhibitions in Slovakia. Definitely, we need to produce more original articles in our original language – not just to translate them or share the links from bigger English-speaking media with different context (colonial history, development theories) and different level of understanding (importance of ODA or impact charity fundraising/donation)… But without any kind of support (from Slovak NGDO Platform or Ministry of foreign affairs) it will be hard journey.

Written by: Boba Baluchova (development field worker, journalist, researcher & teacher)

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About Media about Development

Writing and reporting about international development topics; development cooperation projects, community development success stories and global challenges (in Slovak and also in English language)
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