Forget your Facebook Wall. Maputo Citizens Feedback on an Actual Wall

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This post is also available in: Chinese (Traditional), Spanish, French, Farsi

By Joao Fernando Finazzi at Global Voices

As we see the advance of new technologies which facilitate communication and the spread of information, such as smartphones, tablets, Twitter and Facebook, in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, the People’s Wall has emerged: an extensive outer wall of the newspaper Jornal@Verdade, where citizens can write letters and direct reflections to the governing leaders.

It is an original form of communication whose effectiveness and accessibility are inherent in its very simplicity. In a way, it acts as an authentic ”offline Facebook wall”, as conceived in a blog post by Menina do Javali:

The idea of the Wall was to create a permanent and offline space for readers to read (simple) and to comment (simple).

So, citizens only need a piece of chalk to express their complaints in a public and open way, whether they are related to education, health, safety, or any other demand directed at public policies or leaders. In this way, there is greater democratization of the rights of citizens to petition and make demands.

The inspiration came from the project “Before I Die” by Candy Chang, initiated in New Orleans (the U.S.A.), which already has international support and has been implemented in numerous cities around the world. It basically involves the transformation of a wall into an immense mural with the phrase ”Before I die_____” repeated many times, voluntarily completed by people who, in doing so, share their hopes and dreams in a public place.

The People’s Wall of Maputo, officially started on January 20, is already accessible virtually: via the Internet, it is possible to follow many of the messages written in the Cidadão Repórter (Citizen Reporter) section of the newspaper’s website. Additionally, the reported issues are classified and organised according to place and date, thereby forming a rich database for potential consultations.

One of the topics frequently raised through the Citizen Reporter platform is police corruption. On the People’s Wall, a citizen addresses his or her message to the authorities:

Traffic police, stop the corruption. In doing so, our country will develop. How can we make progress when you take what little we earn through our daily sweat?

Many also express concerns related to education, such as the recent imposition of deductions from teacher’s salaries for the organisation of a party congress for FRELIMO [Mozambique Liberation Front], the conditions in which children attend class, or the lack of books in schools:

The magnanimous 1st President of the Republic said that: We make school a place for the people to take the power but, if we notice, ladies and gentlemen, nowadays the power is taking the people, we see something extremely important when we speak about education in a concrete manner none of the secondary schools in this country have the new curriculum books in their libraries, and with all this the future of this country is unfocused and without knowing what these writers say about the world. We want the new curriculum books in our libraries (Polana Secondary School).

The People’s Wall of Maputo is a citizen media incentive which deserves its due attention; it unites the practice of democratic citizenship with public information and better relations between individuals, the place where they live and the community as a whole. Who knows, perhaps it will become international, just like its inspiration.

  • http://twitter.com/JanetGunter Janet Gunter

    If you’d like to follow what is being said on the People’s Wall, @Verdade newspaper is sharing messages on its English Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/VerdadeNewspaper