I am now in a position to share some notes on how I see Sweden and Portugal dealing with COVID 19, now considered a pandemic situation worldwide. Being the two countries very similar it makes it interesting to compare them. What are the similarities? They have approximately the same population of 10 million and an elderly population. Portugal more densely populated than Sweden. Arriving in Lisbon one immediately notices that here in Portugal people are wearing masks in all public places. This you do not see in Sweden and I have even noticed that when I have worn a mask people have signaled by their behavior that they could suspect that I could be contaminated. why then this difference in attitude and what might come out of it? Comparing figures today 1st July it seems that Portugal so far has a better record than Sweden. Here are today’s figures. Portugal : Contaminated 42141, deceased 1576 and on intensiv care 73
Sweden: Contaminated 69692, decease 5370 and on intensive care 136.
The mentality of the citizens in both countries obviously vary considerably. Sweden seems to be aiming at reaching group immunity while In Portugal the main concern seems to be getting as few people infected as possible. In order to achieve this the State through government and president have constantly appealed to responsible behaviour. But the shut down of economy has been quite dramatic and It has obviously caused the economy to suffer more than in Sweden. In Portugal the laws change according to what is considered necessary. People here seem to be used to laws and regulations from above. in Sweden on the other hand the authorities that work under the State give recommendations to the citizens as to how each and everyone should be responsible to deal socially with the situation. This strategy seems to have hit immigrants i Sweden quite hard. Their situation of relative isolation has proven to have serious consequences for this group. Portugal has also a similar problem having a lower standard of living with many people defenseless in coping with the contamination. I would not venture today to say what the final outcome will be even if many premature conclusions are being take right, left and center. What seems to be common to the people in both countries is the psychological toll it is taking where many people live terrified and cannot find balance based on statistics and facts that they should need to interpret better the real situation.
We are not alone in the world! The Corona virus epidemic has, if anything, proved our dependency of each other. It is a wake up call against our very egocentric societies where we have been made to believe that focusing on the self and own interests is the best way forward. This ego society does not bring anyone happiness as it does not bring fulfillment and positive sense of human existence.
In this context I am writing a few words about what a community with most of its basic needs fulfilled can do for others in the world.
Sweden is considered one of the best societies in the world. This is based on a collective sense of guaranteeing help to our needed citizens and conditions for development. The function and organization of education and health are basic in the assessment of the well being of a society. Sweden comes top because we have been capable to use our resources in a rather fair and just way.
The Swedish parliament is conscious that egoism is not the way forward for ourselves or in the world. That is why for 2020 it has reserved a sum of about 4.5 billion Dollars for cooperation with other countries. Most of this money is administered by Swedish international Development Agency (SIDA).
Many municipalities in Sweden participate in the various programs that are financed by SIDA. Much of these cooperation resources are chained to various organizations that work within the goals and aims of the Swedish parliament. One of the important organizations is ICLD (International Center for Local Democracy). Sundsvall has in the last years been part of this program and has worked with the community of Makunduchi in the southern part of the island of Unguja in Zanzibar. The population is calculated as more than 1 million people in an area half the size of the area of Sundsvall.
Being involved in this project since the beginning I felt that we should from our part gather as much information as possible and this took me last month to visit Mr. Ulf Källstig at the SIDA office in Dar es Salam. He could during this interview thank our municipaly for its commitment and at the same time explained that economic growth in the African continent should interest Swedish companies and we also talked about what can be done to combat the environment situation we are going through. Any comments are welcome directly on this blog as this article will be followed up shortly.
Just by coincidence after watching the news yesterday it caught my eye that the next program had to do with Sundsvall. It was being shown on Swedish Public Television, SVT and the name of the program is Arvinge okänd, ( Heir unknown). I kept in on. The program featured a search for people who had died and where no persons were found to collect an inherance.
It was about Matin Kamal. I first met him when I was studying at Umeå University. I recalled how he told me about the many courses he had taken and somehow he was interested to talk to me. His Swedish was not good. This was sometime at the end of the seventies. Many years went by and he once again appeared and contacted me when I was chairman of a municipal committee some 10 years ago. I recall him presenting me with some ideas to meet challenges in immigration. By this time he was living in Sundsvall.
Much of Matins personality came through in the program now some 5 years after his passing. He left 2 million Swedish Crowns and eventually the program found the children of his siblings in England and in Pakistan.
Matin Kamal belongs to a group of people that having many ideas can never materialize them or get others to help them materialize them. For these and other reasons Matin never had a job. Having taken many courses at University does not help.
I think many politicians can witness on having had this type of contacts. People like Matin look them up to try to convince them of ways to solve political challenges.
We know that every brain is individual. We know that many ideas never come to being because the communication is not there. Matins legacy with help of this program was a step to understand people like him.
People that came in contact with him understood that he had important plans and ideas. He wanted to help for a better social justice and he was concerned with climate change. He was generous when he could be and that is how he will be remembered by the few that knew or understood him.
By this time Bredsand school just outside of the center of Sundsvall is becoming well known inside and even outside Sweden. Being a suburb with many students coming from abroad, specially from Somalia, where war situation has left many without or with very little education it was noticed that school results were below average.
The solution found was to engage a couple of assistants to the teachers with the main task of helping the children and at the same time keeping parents engaged and informed on what was going on as far as school progress was concerned. This way of building bridges of knowledge and contact with the homes was named “Bridge building” and it has proven very successful as rates of students managing their studies increased. It was the destination for the Makunduchi delegation’s visit on Thursday afternoon.
Thursday morning was filled with workshop on methods to prioritize development issues, choosing visionary subjects. This exercise was successfully performed and from 20 suggestions the group could finally agree on three priorities: Education at the lower levels, Entrepreneurship for younger people and Culture.
In the evening the whole group could finally engage on a spare time activity so we went up to the Södra Berget Hotel for a game of bowling, a new experience to all. Coming up on top was Mr. Mussa that besides being the agricultural technician for the Makunduchi ward showed some natural talent to role the bowling ball and successfully getting down more pins than anybody else in the evening.
Being in touch with young people is being in touch with the future. The Makunduchi delegation was given the opportunity to get information from Sundsvall’s youth coordinator Pia Fjällmo on her work with young people when it comes to engaging in society planning.
In Sweden there is a survey done every three years aiming at knowing what young people are thinking and what they value most. This survey is called LUPP and it has been very important for legislators specially on the education, health, culture and leisure side of planning.
Engaging young people is not easy in any country but if the ambition is there and it is supported by documents such as the Children’s rights act, that Sundsvall municipality signed or the UN goals for global development it makes it into law to involve young people.
Mrs Zainab Fadhil and Mrs. Dunia Haji both members of the Makunduchi Ward and teachers themselves followed this information with great interest as they recognize the situation from home with too many youngsters dropping out of school and thrown into a situation of unemployment as a consequence.
During this visit from Makunduchi much emphasis is being put on visionary work for the development of the Makunduchi community so this morning we followed up with workshops aiming at lifting three issues to pursue. After a this exercise where the whole group was involved we could see that the priorities were defined on Education, Entrepreneurship and Culture. These three legs could well help Makunduchi to leap forward and be a reference for whole Zanzibar.
The group could define a strategy for implementation and dissemination of these goals and mainly the way the workshop progressed impressed me very much.
Just about a year ago an association was built to keep a special connection between Sundsvall and Makunduchi.
The association has now 25 paying members and yesterday we were able to arrange a meeting at the Ibn Rushd premises on Centralgatan 14. Members Lejla Porovic and Raage Shirwa took upon themselves to organize the event and we could enjoy interesting conversation as everyone present had a connection with Makunduchi.
Besides a nice evening meal enjoyed by all we could hear from the Makunduchians themselves how they saw present and future development of their village aspiring at becoming a town. Besides the necessary points made on the importance of a well organized and functional education system, there was emphasis put on how to engage young people and channeling ideas into practice through entrepreneurship skills.
It was also brought to everyone’s attention the necessity to better assess the needs of Makunduchi and how this assessment could be achieved. Another important point had to do with the necessity to improve information about what is being done in Makunduchi.
It has been a profitable first year seen from the viewpoint of the association both in terms of its growth as the possibility to engage in small but important activities such as selling products here from Never Give Up shop.
That the association can do some good things is something that members a Johanna Nyström and Lejla Porovic feel strongly about.
Johanna Nyström and Lejla Porovic awaiting guests with welcome drink
Surviving in and developing a village out in the countryside are two aspects joining the village of Makunduchi in Zanzibar and the village of Stöde in Sundsvall.
If the delegation now visiting Sundsvall ever came to Stöde it was all due to the initiative and effort of Kerstin Brandell Svensson and her husband Lennart. Apart from receiving the group in her home and cooking a delicious lunch she provided information and visits to local businesses, hopefully providing ideas that can be useful also in Makunduchi.
Stödebröd was established by the grand parents of the present owner and so it has stayed in the Edström family for three generations. The bakery makes thin bread and the product can be found all over Sweden and even in other European countries.
Besides her job as a music teacher Kerstin runs a Bed and breakfast-business Sweden4u and this enterprise rents out a cottage. Her husband Lennart cuts wood into properly sized logs for use in open fires for heating and coziness- Stöde Energi.
Last visit was at a n association of handicraft producers that together run a shop and expose their products for sale. This shop goes under the name of Stöde Form.
Mbanja Makame himself a businessman in Makunduchi commented that these experiences will be useful showing some new solutions and that it is possible to expand business even in a smaller village away from the main economic centers.
This morning at 9 o’clock as planned the Makunduchi delegation arrived at the SKL headquarters where Lena Langlet hosted with an interesting presentation on how the Swedish local authorities and regions are organized and the role of this association. I learned that for foreign ears SKL is SALAR and as you might know at next month’s congress there is a proposal to change the name to SKR.
This visit I consider was of great interest to the delegation and it particularly gave Mr. Mohamed Salum secretary of ZALGA a good insight and understanding on how the Swedish counterpart functions.
These are his comments on the visit.
1-I learned a lot on the means that enable SALAR to have smooth connection with municipalities, the idea that I will portray to ZALGA.
2- I learned from SALAR how it best can emphasize itself to the Central Government on what is not being done.
3- ZALGA can use experienced and sometimes retired staff from the LGA (Local Government Authority)
4- Many other things, but the need to learn further from SALAR is essential.
We are now sitting on the train and expect to arrive at about 6 pm. Everybody seems to be in good spirits and looking forward to this coming week’s program.
This picture shows a well known Swedish meeting point. You will find it at Central Station in Stockholm. It was also here I was supposed to meet up with Zanzibar delegation from the village of Makunduchi.
When I arrived from spending the night with my daughter in the outskirts of Stockholm our guests were already there. My worries about them not having printed out train tickets or that they might have muddled up time since we turned back our time yesterday were in unnecessary.
Tomorrow our program will start, now with everyone equipped with warmer clothing. In the morning we will visit SKL which is the federation of Swedish local authorities and regions. There we look forward to get some information on this organisation’s democracy responsibility towards local governance. Big thanks to Lena Langlet at SKL who could facilitate the visit. On the Zanzibar delegation we also have Mr. Mohamed Salum who is director for the Central District on Zanzibar and also secretary for the corresponding Zanzibar organization to SKL.
This is all for now and I will be reporting on this blog on development of proceedings during next week.
In November last year I predicted I would be writing more often on my blog. Well, it didn’t happen… Truth is I have had too much to do. Besides trying to learn some Swahili and Italian, sold our house, emptied it, sold and gave away stuff by the tons, bought a flat in Granloholm, Sundsvall, took a car trip to Lisbon with lots of stuff to the flat there, went on to empty it and order renovations that are now in (slow) progress. I have a new granddaughter since august. Anyway, I’m back now and hopefully not having to go through so many energy and time consuming activities in the future.
As far as learning Swahili I can say that I have completed the Duolingo course and that it gives me some ideas on how the language is built, I have some vocabulary, but without practice I am at a loss. I embraced the much easier Italian language and what prompted me to learn it was that my grand daughter Liv Gudasic is in Florence doing a course in Graphic Design. Hopefully we will find the opportunity to pay her a visit in the future.
Life in Granloholm is pleasant. In a smaller flat we have achieved becoming free of all debts and simplified our life as things are well organized here. We have 200 meters away, the possibility to leave all our waste sorted out and not having to take it by car to the recycling stations. We have a common laundry but can do most of our washing indoors.
The bus runs nearby at regular times without much delay. I travel on a monthly ticket that costs me only 100 Sek. Our cat Abby has settled nicely in.
This new situation
means that we increase our possibilities to travel which is something we look forward
Next coming week we will be receiving a delegation from Makunduchi and this will mean a trip to Stockholm to receive them. More about this in coming articles.