In honour of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, we want to celebrate cultural diversity all over the world and especially in Ethiopia and Addis Ababa, where our PROJECT-E Hospitality Institute (PEHI) is located.
So, why is Cultural Diversity so important? The UN states that “Cultural diversity is a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.” (UN: Why does cultural diversity matter?) Cultural Diversity, therefore, is about installing and enforcing basic human rights like equality and secondly, about listening in order to learn from each other and grow as individuals and as a society. It’s about empathy, understanding and respect.
Ethiopia is an especially diverse country. Over 80 languages are being spoken and many different religious beliefs and ethnicities come together in one place. The two biggest ethnicities are Oromo and Amhara. The countries official languages are Amharic and English. Christianity and Islam are the two most practiced religions (Commisceo Global). Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, is world-renowned for its’ diversity. PROJECT-E, due to its’ location in Addis, is a very culturally diverse project as well. And as diverse as the city are the students and staff at the PEHI. They come from different religious and socio-economic backgrounds and get to learn from each other through their classes, daily conversations and encounters.
Also, as PROJECT-E is not only run from Addis, but from all parts of Europe as well, it benefits from the different ways people influence the project while working towards a common goal. The articles on PROJECT-E’s blog for instance are published in German and English. Besides, they deal with a variety of topics like traditional Ethiopian festive days, sub-cultural events or the role of women in Ethiopia’s politics. On the one hand, they aim to reach and thus, educate as many people as possible. On the other hand, to contribute to the representation of cultural and informative diversity in the Ethiopian context. Trough working at PROJECT-E and being part of a steady intercultural dialogue, young Europeans get the chance to become aware and raise awareness about Ethiopia, an Africa country which, as most other countries of the Global South, is not represented in mainstream European media and discourse.
To think outside the cultural box is useful for personal and societal development. And to get a better understanding of the world and its’ power relations it is necessary and responsible to do so. It prevents, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer, defines it, “the danger of a single story”. She points out, that having a single story about a country, culture or person leads to stereotypes, which are not necessarily “untrue, but […] incomplete” (Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story, 2009). Adichie shows that representation as such and the way of representation matters. “Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize” (Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story, 2009).
Each and every one can benefit from hearing many stories and working with different people from all over the world: We can learn from each other, if we only take the time to listen to the variety of stories that a country, a people or a person has to tell. PROJECT-E strives towards a more open and tolerant world with a diverse and differentiated perception on cultures and especially African cultures, in which respect hasn’t need to be earned but is a natural human right and based on the belief that we are all equal.
Written by Anne Stellberger
United Nations: Why does cultural diversity matter? https://www.un.org/en/events/culturaldiversityday/index.shtml [20.05.2018]
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story, 2009 https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story/transcript [20.05.2018]
Commisceo Global: Ethiopia – Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/ethiopia-guide [20.05.2018]