Tag Archives: development

Day 26: The Power of Listening- Kony2012, Development and “the Other” Voices

11 Mar

As a feminist and a hopeful future scholar from the developed part of the world, I always have to deal with a guilt-ridden question that I don’t necessarily have the answer for. “So what gives me the right to talk about ‘the other’s’ story with so much self-righteousness?” After all, this is why I have lots of problems with Nicholas Kristof and his stories, and maybe as a privileged woman, I probably do not have any right to talk about “the other’s” stories, however I am heartbroken and angry about them. It is obvious that I am always (unconsciously and unfortunately) likely to have the “first-world” bias, because I am a product of such education.

What I can do the best for now, until I do get to understand the uncanny boundaries between truly understanding and mistakenly knowledgeable, is listening and learning from those who do speak out. Some do not speak as loud, and others may not speak the same language. But it is my job to develop the ear through constant learning, instead of just being frustrated with more Kristofs who are out there, trying to fix the world with their assertiveness in their own ways. It is not my job to change their perspectives, but to develop my own perspectives from the alternative voices which are way more powerful (Yes, I have been reading Thich Nhat Hanh a bit).

So this time, maybe I won’t speak so much about my opinion on the current debates on Kony 2012, which initially bugged me quite a bit. I will just leave you with a very passionate, intelligent (yes, one can be both) statement from a Ugandan journalist, Rosebell Kagumire, who has written extensively on women’s war experiences in Uganda, South Sudan and DR Congo. There is nothing more powerful than peace and conflict stories told by a woman who is in the midst of them and tries to generate a powerful voice.

I think we need to have a kind of sound, intelligent campaigns that gear towards real policy shifts rather than a very sensationalized story that is out to make […] just one person cry and at the end of the day, we forget about it. I think it’s all about trying to make a difference, but how do you tell the story about Africans is much more important than what the story is, actually. Because if you are showing me as voiceless, as hopeless… you have no space in telling my story. You shouldn’t be telling my story, if you don’t believe that I also have the power to change what is going on. And this video seems to say that the power lies in America, and it does not lie with my government, it does not lie with local initiatives on the ground. That aspect is lacking and this is the problem. It is furthering that narrative about Africans totally unable to help themselves, and needing outside help all the time.


Day 14: Nicholas Kristof Depresses Me

25 Feb

I’m gonna write something that is not directly related to women’s/gender issues. It is more on a particular writer and international development, but it is my belief that these are interconnected issues as many women (and men) of the world are still very much excluded from achieving better quality of lives and human rights.

I have read quite a few of Nicholas Kristof’s writing, and I even read a book written by him and his wife, Half the Sky. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, he is a big time NYT columnist who has been writing extensively about women’s human rights in developing world.

But can someone tell me why his “courageous acts” never fails to appear to me as journeys based on “White Man’s Burden?” Watch this video first.


It just makes me feel uncomfortable that he often (dangerously and surprisingly naively) claims that people who might be ignorant but means well should get out of America (or whatever their comfort zone might be) and explore the developing countries. While these people may infinitely benefit from the life changing experience, I believe that their short visits are quite invasive to the daily lives of the people in the developing countries who have to live with poverty probably for the rest of their lives whether they come or not. Their visits may even give these people false hope that making personal relationship with them could possibly lift them out of poverty. I have seen such efforts, and it is quite heartbreaking and uncomfortable.

The “natives” or “those unfortunate women” being the elements that satisfy the voyeuristic pleasure. It doesn’t sit quite well with me. But then, isn’t all development literature coming from more or less that viewpoint? Aren’t we all, the citizens of developed countries (and those who are fortunate enough to get out of poverty or to be born in well-off families in developing countries), just talking gibberish about what poverty and injustice are to those who are subalterns (the entities who do not even have autonomy)? And who are we to call them subalterns? Or should we forget all of these “unproductive” arguments and just move on to come up with better solutions?

These questions ought to be constantly debated, and they are never going to have awesome answers for me (that could clear my head eventually), but those debates are honestly quite exhausting…