One World SEE: supporting dialogue across languages

One World Platform for Southeast Europe (OWPSEE) has collaborated with Tactical Tech to translate 10 Tactics into four languages to increase its accessibility to the region. Valentina Pellizzer, the executive director of OWPSEE, explained the organisation's work to us.

OWPSEE is one of eleven organisations worldwide that make up the One World network. As Valentina explains, OWPSEE's aims are to use technology to connect people in ways that can address inter-regional conflict. "For us technology is not neutral, and we did not want to use it only to tell the stories of a small organisation in Macedonia to the rest of the world. For us it was more about how to connect the people from Macedonia to similar realities that are known in Bosnia, so that the people in Bosnia can understand that they are not alone and that there are people who are sharing similar experiences.”

Being an internet-focussed organisation in a region without high levels internet access (less than one in three have internet access in Bosnia for example) is not without challenges. For this reason OWPSWEE lead a range of initiatives that forge links with online and offline communities. OWPSEE also work to promote civil society rights advocacy work in the region. For this reason they've created which promotes and documents advocacy work being done in Southeast Europe in four languages (English, Macedonian, Albanian, and Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian-Montenegrin.)

“We decided to use our regional presence and the fact that we can translate from one language to another to make people aware that there are good practices and we can learn from one another to see that we are not so different.” says Valencia. OWPSEE also lead and support campaigns in the region such as Take Back the Tech, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, while they are also part of the Asoociation of Progressive Communications network, helping to localise the APC Internet Rights Charter.

OWPSEE have worked with Tactical Tech to localise 10 Tactics by translating it into the three main languages of the region. For OWPSEE the collaboration happened at the "right moment after the explosion of social networks and online activism” because “people in our region are now using these spaces to enter into a political discourse, so it is really important to provide inspiration. If we find something that is really good then we ask if it feasible to localise the materials."

OWPSEE use their regional presence and their translating ability to linguistically unite this small but complex region. Valentina comments that "unfortunately language in the Balkans is used to divide rather than to connect." This year they decided not to use the name of the language Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian-Montenegrin for their website as a symbolic gesture to connect those using this language and to break down existing barriers. For example on the website instead of listing the different language options to include the label ' Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian-Montenegrin they use the word 'dober dan', which means 'good morning', as the languages are so similar that this would be understood by all. Valentina explains that “this is symbolic to show that languages are connectors as well. This really is the reason behind us doing the 10 Tactics translations – so that languages can connect and empower people and knowledge can be shared.”