Maud returns from Benin


Maud returns from Benin

Résaux sociaux

Maud Genevois has just returned from a month in Benin, where she carried out research on community service learning, but also on the notion of partnership. This mission followed an internship she carried out for Louvain Coopération. She looks back on the experience with us.

At the age of 22, Maud has a Master's degree in International Relations from UCLouvain. As part of her studies, she completed a work placement in the Research and Development department of Louvain Coopération. "I worked on partnership relations, postcolonial theories in North-South relations, action research, etc. At the end of the placement, I was offered the chance to go to Benin on a one-month research mission. I jumped at the chance! Once there, in the south of the country, Maud's duties included documenting the practice of community service learning in Beninese universities on behalf of the Agence Universitaire Francophone. "This type of learning combines practice and theory. There, the skills acquired at university are used to improve the living conditions of the communities around us. To understand how it happens there, I conducted several interviews at the universities of Abomey Calavi and Parakou" details the young woman.

Studying, to support the community

Over here, Service Learning, as it's known, has the wind in its sails and, during her research, Maud quickly realised that the Beninese have been practising it for a very long time, without giving it that name. "They talk about practical placements, which serve to professionalise students, but that's very different from the placements we find here because this professionalisation is synonymous with giving back to the community. All the theoretical knowledge acquired during their studies is intended to support the community. They see no point in studying at university if it's not to improve the community."

Maud has also conducted several interviews with members of the Benin team at Louvain Coopération and its partners to analyse the partnerships that unite them and the power relationships that can be detected. "They explained things to me very well, and I was able to ask questions and get to the bottom of things. I detected a dynamic of open communication, of equals, of transparency between the partners and the local team, which I felt was very positive."

First experience in sub-Saharan Africa

Maud had travelled alone in the past, but never set foot in sub-Saharan Africa. She wasn't expecting such a culture shock. "At first, I was really unsettled by Benin because the social context and the way life is organised are completely different from back home. There are a huge number of things, infrastructures, that we take for granted in France or Belgium, that we don't even notice any more, but that we don't find over there. But in the end I adapted quickly. What's more, the way life is organised is really based on development and mutual support. I found the concept of sustainable development and self-sufficiency much more in evidence there than back home. Entrepreneurship is also central, but in the same way as it is here, in a capitalist approach. Over there, it's more about becoming financially independent and sharing the benefits with your community. It's a completely different approach and mentality, and it's been a great inspiration to me. "

A very positive experience overall, then, for Maud, both in terms of what she learned and the human experience. Today, she works in a French human rights association but plans to go back to discover even more cultures.

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