Kiswahili Day 2023
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proudly commemorates World Kiswahili Language Day on July 7th each year. This special day acknowledges the significance of Kiswahili, also known as Swahili, as a language of immense cultural and linguistic value. With its rich history and wide usage, Kiswahili holds the honor of being the first African language to have a dedicated unit within the Directorate of Global Communications at the United Nations. This article explores the importance of Kiswahili and highlights the theme of this year’s celebration.
Why July 7?
On July 7th, 1954, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) under the leadership of the late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the First President of the United Republic of Tanzania, adopted Kiswahili as a unifying language for their independence struggles. This historic decision solidified the role of Kiswahili in bringing people together and fostering national unity.
Theme of Kiswahili Language Day:
The theme chosen for the 2023 celebration of Kiswahili Language Day is “Unleashing Kiswahili’s Potential in the Digital Era.” This theme recognizes the ever-growing influence of technology and the digital realm, highlighting the need to harness Kiswahili’s capabilities to contribute to the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063.
The Significance of Kiswahili:
Kiswahili holds a prominent position among the world’s languages, and its importance cannot be overstated. Here are some key points about Kiswahili:
i. Wide Usage: With over 200 million speakers, Kiswahili is among the ten most widely spoken languages globally. It holds particular significance in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it is the most widely spoken language.
ii. Lingua Franca: Kiswahili serves as a lingua franca, or common language, in numerous countries across East, Central, and Southern Africa, as well as in the Middle East. Its ability to bridge communication gaps and facilitate interaction among diverse populations makes it an invaluable asset.
iii. Official Language: Kiswahili is an official language of the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), further highlighting its importance and recognition at a regional level.
History of the Day:
Recognizing the significance of language diversity, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 71/328 on multilingualism in 2017. This resolution called for the establishment of dedicated days to celebrate each of the UN’s official languages, with the aim of raising awareness about their history, culture, and usage. Subsequently, during the 41st session of the General Conference of UNESCO on November 23rd, 2021, resolution 41 C/61 was adopted. This resolution acknowledged the vital role of Kiswahili in promoting cultural diversity, fostering dialogue among civilizations, and supporting multilingualism as a core value of the United Nations. As a result, July 7th was proclaimed as World Kiswahili Language Day, symbolizing the language’s ability to promote unity, peace, and multiculturalism.
World Kiswahili Language Day provides a platform to celebrate and explore the vast potential of Kiswahili in the digital era. As Kiswahili continues to thrive as an African language within the United Nations and gain recognition on a global scale, its role in achieving sustainable development goals and fostering international understanding becomes increasingly crucial. Let us embrace the richness of Kiswahili, its history, and its contribution to cultural diversity, as we unite in celebration on this special day.
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