More EWB-UBC Questions
Here are some more questions from my awesome UBC Chapter back home.
In your blog post, Fight Patriarchy, you mentioned that many charities are aimed at helping men. In what ways do NGO programs benefit men more than women?
To begin, my apologies. I often make sweeping generalizations in my blog posts that I don’t back up. To answer this question, I’m going to narrow my scope and focus on Tamale.
In this city, there are a lot of different NGO projects with different agendas. There are a lot of different NGO projects with different agendas. Many of them specifically target women as recipients of aid or education. Unfortunately, however, it is extremely difficult for foreigners to understand the local cultural implications of their work
For example, I’m currently working with a group that is educating women on obstetric fistula. Since this a medical problem that occurs from prolonged childbirth, it first appeared to be a “woman’s issue.” Consequently, they started their project by focusing on women.
They soon discovered, however, that the problems surround obstetric fistula are much more complex. Early marriages, teen pregnancies, malnutrition, and poverty all contribute to the high rates of obstetric fistula. Moreover, it often doesn’t matter how educated a woman is on the subject because ultimately she needs permission from her husband to go to the hospital – either to give birth or get treated afterwards.
We exist in a patriarchal society, so all these small patch-up solutions ultimately help to uphold patriarchy.
Here’s another example. For the GIFTS project, Amplify hired Ghanaians to work as field workers. They record housing information, GPS coordinates, and paint numbers on the houses. Out of 10 data collectors, only one is a woman.
This isn’t because Amplify is biased: they actually aimed to hire more women. But many women can’t work a full-time job here. Instead, they need something that they can organize around household chores and childcare responsibilities. For instance, my seamstress’ 1-year-old son usually hangs out in her stall with her.
As a Canadian, I view my job life and home life as separate entities. Women here, however, often don’t have that luxury.
Does that make sense? Have I answered your question? I wanted to delve into counterrevolutionary theory, but that would have started a long “end patriarchy!!!!!” rant so I tried to give examples instead. Let me know if I haven’t been clear.
If people are using pay-as-you-go cards, then would they be paying to answer the surveys you’ve sent out?
With pay-as-you-go, you only pay when you make the outgoing call. Receiving calls doesn’t cost anything.
In what other ways can we/NGOs help if we don’t build infrastructure directly? How do we help improve infrastructure indirectly?
By helping countries improve their government’s accountability, which leads to your next question:
You suggested improving the tax system, however, how could developed countries help developing countries improve their governments as whole?
I wish I had concise answers for you. Honestly you’re asking me things way outside my depth of knowledge, so please take everything here with a grain of salt. Actually, take it with a mountain of salt.
I think we need to focus on our own governments and lead by example.
In South Africa, I got to meet the Governor General because my friend’s boss was receiving an award. As a fellow Canadian, I was invited to the party. We went to the Canadian Diplomat’s house in Pretoria, which was huge. I met Craig Kielburger, the guy who started Feed the Children. A large group of important Canadians were traveling around southern Africa to meet state leaders and see the countries for themselves.
It was outrageous. Besides the lavish food spread, they had also brought in Canadian beer and maple cookies.
Most African governments are disgustingly corrupt, but we’re not shining ideals either. As Canadians, I think we need to demand more from our politicians. Advocacy is key.
I know that’s not a great answer. I’m basically saying that we can help African governments by ignoring them and letting them fend for themselves.
More than that, though, we also need to recognize that many of our actions in Canada undermine sovereignty in African states – like our electronics that often contain minerals from conflict zones. We need to consume less stuff. If oil, gold, diamonds, and other resources weren’t so precious, then people wouldn’t fight over it.
These are tough issues. It’s so complicated that I have no idea how to tackle them.
That being said, things change quickly. Look at how quickly China and India created a new middle class! Nothing is hopeless.
If anyone else has more ideas, you’re invited to share.