Divin Dushimimana ’26 (DCI Fellow)
I believe that one good conversation can shift the direction of change forever. When I look back, deliberation could have saved many Africans so much trouble in their family life. At least in my culture in Rwanda, the head of the family in many traditional households commands and everyone else follows – no discussion about it and the routine continues. Sometimes, it feels like you’re a computer being programmed on what to do.
At first, it seems like it’s working until it doesn’t. This parenting style and lack of deliberation in African homes has been the main result of teenage misconduct and rebellion. I have seen a lot of my friends forsake their homes because of lack of meaningful conversations and lack of parent’s understanding that their children are old enough to dictate how they want to live their lives. The idea is that your parents are right and you are wrong hence you should listen to whatever they tell you to do without any form of discussion or compromise on the issue.
Growing up in such an environment and doing debate in high school, the notion was the same. I had this idea that there is always this person who has the monopoly of knowledge. It was more of someone being right and another being wrong, nothing else. This process creates poor relationships between parents and children that consequently affect their ability to interact and engage on different topics like reproductive health or even mental health.
At some points, it will seem like it is a child against a parent and vice versa. I know examples of children who have indulged in certain things just to make their parents angry because the children felt like they aren’t being heard; they felt like they aren’t being given an opportunity to discuss issues that are meaningful to them, they aren’t being given an opportunity to deliberate and find a common ground on certain things.
After participating in the ‘Parents & Teachers Forum’ this semester, I gained more understanding on how parents should play a vital role in what their children learn through deliberation. I realized that deliberation can create one conversation at a time in an African household. I think this can build meaningful communities and catalyze creative solutions. Indeed, I believe we would see cases of teenage pregnancies and youth suicide drop incrementally if deliberation is incorporated in the parenting style.
I believe this would build parents’ active listening skills towards their children, giving them an opportunity to understand where they are coming from and what challenges they are facing. Furthermore, children will feel loved and free to engage in such meaningful conversations with their parents, which I believe will create a safe space for growth.
Furthermore, after being trained as a facilitator and actually facilitating three Deliberative Team meetings, I realized that people will not always agree on certain issues due to their different backgrounds or experiences with the issue at hand. However, if you free yourself from the idea of always winning or being right and open your ears to actively listening to someone else’s opinion, you’ll surely learn a lot. You’ll surely gain a certain mastery of letting go of your opinions when you’re introduced to new ideas.
In this world of growing tensions and challenging issues, no one holds a monopoly on effective solutions. The world would change for the better if people would refrain from thinking that they are always right but rather open their hearts to learning. I believe that through deliberation, we can make significant progress on all of the issues affecting our world.