This is a place for people with little or no academic or practical experience with development issues, who are now, or are about to be, in a development context. Like a volunteer. Volunteering can be rewarding both for the volunteer and the organisations and the people receiving volunteers. It can be a way for (especially young) people to broaden their world, experience new things, meet new people, and contribute. However, there are some risks involved, but if you are aware of those risks they automatically become smaller.Continue reading
During my research for my blog content concerning public health in the digital era, I came across with Angus Deaton’s book. The Great Escape: Health, wealth and the origin of inequality is originally the title of a film about people fleeing from a war camp during World War II. The Nobel Prize-winning writer and economist uses this in the context of how humanity “escapes” from, among other things, poverty and premature death, and how it creates prosperity for itself.
Over the last two months, I have had the opportunity to embark myself on a fascinating journey and, taking advantage of my groupmates’ wise guide and advice, to discover the challenges and penuries that novice volunteers will encounter in their own journey. In this final blog, I will re-visit my previous contributions to our hands-on communication blog project, “A Better Volunteer”, and try to show my conclusions and reflections upon a topic of paramount importance for the humanitarian sector.
New Media and ICT have become part of most realms of human life and society in general. Information sharing and communication is easier than ever before, if you by easier mean less cumbersome and time consuming. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it has become easier to understand one another, or that it brings us closer together as humans. Social media is one example of (relatively) recent technology that simplifies both information sharing and communication, and something that has become an integral part of everyday life for many people around the world.
I have written several blogposts the last couple of weeks with the main subjects being white saviorism (voluntourism and white privilege) and education (digital divide and ICT’s in education). For the purpose of this blogpost I would like to elaborate on the individual blogposts that I have written and provide a deeper understanding of these matters. I would also like to discuss the experience of writing and maintaining a blog throughout these last few weeks.
During these last six weeks I have, together with four my fellow students, been posting weekly blogposts. It has been a part of an assignment in our studies in communication for development. It was a very different assignment from what I am used to, and it has been both challenging and a learning experience. With this blog we wanted to create a platform for a younger audience with an interest in, but none or very little experience of, the aid industry and volunteering. Our hope was to be a positive influence for young people who are thinking of embarking on the volunteering path.
The Impossible Decisions: Triaging In A Pandemic session will take place on Friday 30 October, check back later for a summary!
We already talked a lot about the potential harms of digital technologies and how these factors impact populations, humanitarian actions, volunteers, and the field of development itself. The dissemination of (false) information is another element of the ICT debate. While news has the potential to reach everyone, one way or another, its implications on different communities are varied. In the current COVID-19 outbreak, the lack of appropriate risk communication and community engagement fail to counter social stigma and could reinforce health inequalities.
Most parts of our societies change with and adapt to new technology. Our professional and private lives are impacted by the changes in technology. We work differently, socialize differently, listen to music differently, watch film and television differently– and in general– engage with the world differently. The development and INGO industry has of course also adapted to new technology and, to some extent, gone digital. Most likely, this is also true when it comes to your experience in the development context.
The digital divide is definitely not something new. Within the field of communication for development it has been a broadly discussed topic. Although more and more people are connected some way, there are still numerous left behind. Those people at the margins are often the most vulnerable in society. The current COVID-19 pandemic has showed that the digital divide is even further increasing. The growth in the use of ICT within education has led this digital divide to create an educational divide as well. This rapid shift to ICT’s in the field of education has left many children behind or with bad quality education. This will have enormous consequences in the long term.
Over the last few decades, technological developments have impacted all aspects of life. This is also true in the case of the healthcare sector and development organizations. Communications strategies have been adapted, focusing on digital communication, incorporating various social media applications as well. Social media use facilitates building the image of an organization, creating a social identity, sharing achievements and demonstrating long-term goals and projects. Studies have argued that recruitment platforms should also strengthen online recruitment (as incorporated use of digital platforms in order to attract the most well-prepared and motivated young volunteers) as Internet has become an important resource for involving and recruiting volunteers as well as creating various opportunities for participation.
My previous post was about sexual exploitation in the aid industry. If you didn’t read it, I very briefly related the long history of scandals of sexual exploitation and abuse of power in the industry, leaving many cases out in an attempt to limit the word count. I painted a very dire picture of the state of things and I questioned the idea of ICT as a tool to fight the wide spread occurrence of sexual abuse in the aid industry. The conclusion Continue reading
The traditional one-to-one relation between development and economic growth has given way to a more holistic understanding of the term that encompasses social, environmental and economic wellbeing. Among other theories, Kleine’s approach proffers the idea of development as the freedom of choice – personal, social, economic and political – which a person may value most. In this context, ICT4D work as invaluable catalyzers for human advancement to help people achieve different ‘degrees of empowerment’ regarding choice capabilities. Needless to say, the volunteering sector has been at the cutting edge of ICTs in their strife to ameliorate community life conditions, taking into consideration their impact on the quality and quantity outcomes of volunteering agency.
STOP FILMING US: A documentary about white saviorism
The documentary film ‘Stop filming us’ was released earlier this year and is now being presented in several locations (such as the Human Rights Film Festival Berlin, the Africa museum, Congo in Harlem and several Dutch universities). In the film we see Dutch filmmaker Joris Postema in Goma (Democratic Republic of Congo), where he follows three young Congolese artists. They talk about their struggle and frustration with the western dominance and their city being portrayed as dangerous. Postema’s position as a western filmmaker is being questioned. The movie is intended to create a dialogue between the Congolese reality and the Western perspective. The question however then rises whether a western filmmaker can really give an honest and Congolese perspective. How do the Congolese feel about these white saviors? And are they actually doing something good when trying to do good? Is it even possible for a western filmmaker to leave the stereotypical and western thoughts behind?
Globalization has brought about a new dimension to our lives since everything is to hand in this shrinking world where technology is making a real difference (for the better?). However, when you think of volunteering, the first image that springs to mind is this stereotype of young and idealistic Westerners who, eager to live the real story, embark themselves in a fascinating overseas adventure. (I beg the reader’s pardon, perhaps I should have written down voluntourism instead of volunteering).
On September 29th this year the news broke that more than 50 women accused aid workers for sexual abuse in the Congo Ebola crisis response efforts during 2018-2020. It was the nonprofit news organization The New Humanitarian that after a yearlong investigation into the matter released their findings. The claims that were put forward accused unnamed male workers from mainly the WHO, but also other leading NGOs and UN agencies as well as the Congolese health ministry, for demanding sex in change for employment. Women shared stories of being pressured to have sexual relations with men to be considered for employment and of contracts being terminated when refusing to engage with the men. The practice was so widely spread that it became known as a “passport to employment” ¹.
If you have read my previous two blog posts on Representations of Global Poverty and The Single Story, you might be aware of the traps of posting about you experience in a development context and narrate distant suffering on social media.
Is there another way?
Periods. Statistically speaking, half the people reading this have them (don’t fact check me on this one, please). Even though my previous statement might not be one hundred percent factually correct, a large part of the population has first hand experience with menstruation. Still, the mentioning of menstruation and all things related (I’m thinking about sanitary pads, menstrual cups, tampons, stained clothes etcetera.) is uncomfortable for many and it is considered a private issue. Growing up in Sweden, I was fully aware that I one day would get my period and I was in some ways looking forward to it, thinking that would be that I was a proper grown-up then. That of course changed as soon as I got my period and the anticipation transformed in to a feeling of injustice and having been wronged in some way. And don’t get me started on the uncomfortable pads and the fear of staining my pants and the following (mainly imagined) public ridicule. Continue reading
I always remember this Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece while having to deal with an unpleasant situation from which I would rather stay away. His dolly zoom effect replicates perfectly the uncomfortable sensation that you experience when your stomach flinches and the subsequent spinning of the head begins.
Not everyone has the opportunity to share their story on social media. Access to the device itself, the platforms, decent network and a wide audience is a privilege.
A mother is helping her daughter study – Source: BBC
The educational sector worldwide has recently come under a lot of pressure, having to shift to distance learning. The Mexican government decided to close the schools on March 20th, and classrooms have not reopened since. Private schools are using a combination of Ipad, computer and online classes through Zoom in order to continue their student’s education.
Nowadays volunteering is becoming increasingly popular, which also involves projects in health care. The reasons behind volunteering are varied, from taking social responsibility, through gathering new competences till religious motivations. Similarly, the actual impact on local communities is mixed. It was explained earlier which factors we must consider if we wish to help. The lack of adequate knowledge, cultural sensitivity, and a comprehensive understanding of socio-economic characteristics of communities, unfortunately, can easily cause more harm than good. While avoiding economic harm, personal damage and diminishment of confidence should be the main precondition, volunteering in health care settings often requires medical diploma. In the meantime, there is an increasing focus on global health disparities, such as access to healthcare, health literacy, unaffordability of treatments, and ageing population.
Marta was about to finish her studies in medicine when she, along with a bundle of fellow doctors-to-be, decided to spend her summer holidays in the Philippines. Blue-eyed and blonde, short and fragile, she is my little niece and the apple of my eye. But she is also self-assured and far stronger than the initial impression that her fragile appearance conveys… And when she felt the spur-of-the-moment drive for joining a humanitarian cause, for living the volunteering experience, and finally, for enjoying two additional weeks in the paradisiacal archipelago, no one in the world was capable of stopping her from crossing the planet. Once back home, she brought her baggage full of countless emotive stories, joy and tears, gratitude from and towards the Filipino people, a worrying sunburn, and hundreds of digital pictures already posted on Facebook and Instagram.
If you are about to experience something completely new, far away from home, it is not strange that you want to share this with you family and friends; especially if it is overwhelming. These days, sharing photos is, as you know, easier than ever before. Endless apps and platforms enable your loved ones to see what you are up to wherever you are. This means that in theory, we should be able to better understand people and places far away. Digital ways of communicating does bring the opportunity to decrease the cultural distance and to connect with these faraway people and places, but it can also do the exact opposite if you are not aware of the traps.Continue reading
Today I want to discuss with you the issue of volunteering with children and more specifically in orphanages. Although the debate around orphanage tourism is not new, it has lately reached new heights with orphanages being linked to cases of sexual abuse, modern slavery and human trafficking (see here). The bigger audience is thus becoming aware of its practices. The entire industry is based on what Leigh Mathews calls the ‘orphan myth’, which ‘is designed to ensure that there is a ready-made source of people, money and resources to support these children. However, the orphan myth is exactly that – a myth’ (Mathews, 2019, p. 46). It is estimated that over 80% of the children in orphanages have living parents.
Taking a gap year and going abroad to a developing country to volunteer has for a long time been a vital and character forming rite of passage for many conscious and well-meaning youths of the Global North (the term mainly refers to the developed countries of Europe and North America but also Australia and New Zeeland). The desire to be of service and to make a difference in the life of those less fortunate is admirable and should be encouraged. But in our endeavor to do good and help others, we often convince ourselves that we need to travel to a remote village in the Global South – you guessed it, the term refers broadly to low income, less developed regions of South America, Asia and Africa – to build a school or teach English, even though we might not be native English speakers ourselves.Continue reading