UNIC Harare is supporting efforts to promote cultural diversity and multilingualism in Zimbabwe. For the second year running, the Centre partnered with Children in Performing Arts Workshop (CHIPAWO) and UNESCO in commemorating International Mother Language Day 2013.
The commemoration held in Harare on Saturday 23 February saw children drawn from Children in Performing Arts Workshop (CHIPAWO) centres in Harare, Norton, Domboshava, Chitungwiza and Bindura, perform traditional dance, drama and recite poetry in different local languages thereby demonstrating the rich cultural diversity and multilingualism existing in Zimbabwe.
The children also made totemic praises to demonstrate the need to master different and rich cultural forms of expression and to emphasize and enlighten the audience on the importance of totems, their role in promoting identity and to strengthen relations.
Emerald Hill School for the deaf taught other children sign language.
Over 500 children were present at this event, as well as United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) staff.
UNIC mounted an exhibition of UN publications translated into Shona and Ndebele. These included the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Calendar of UN Observances.
UNIC also translated into local languages the International Mother Language Day Message issued by the UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. This was read in Shona by Guest of Honour, Rebecca Chisamba. Mrs Chisamba is a popular, local language talk-show host in Zimbabwe.
There are more than 16 languages spoken in Zimbabwe. These include Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa. But the more widely-used languages in Zimbabwe are Shona and Ndebele.
The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed International Mother Language Day in November 1999 (30C/62). The Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism and to highlight greater awareness of the importance of mother tongue education.
On 16 May 2009 the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”.
The United Nations recognizes that languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.
International Mother Language Day represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.