Last night when I was driving home from work listening to NPR (I think it was a World Affairs Council meeting), this Slow Food Movement guy told a story about going to an international conference on food in Italy. He said he had had a long flight, with some layovers, and was tired and ready to go to the hotel. He and two people from Burkina Faso were met at the airport but told they would have to wait for a group from Kyrgyzstan. The Burkina Faso folks had walked for two days to reach a city where they could catch a plane. They could speak English but not Italian, so the American who could speak some Italian acted as a translator. After waiting for half an hour, the American inquired whether they could go to the hotel. No, the Italian said, I'm sorry but we have to wait for the Kyrgyzstan contingent. The American then translated to the Burkina Faso folks that the Italian was sorry but they had to wait. This happened every half hour for a couple of hours. Finally, the Burkina Faso folks told the American that there was no need to apologize. "You have the watches," he said. "We have the time."
Recently in Understanding Africa Category
À Boni, avec Kathy, nous avons assisté à une cérémonie d'initiation qui se déroule tous les sept ans. Nous avons assisté cette année à la 11e promotion ; car cela fait 77 ans que le village à commencé à compter les promotions d'initiés.
Deux cérémonies ont lieu tous les sept ans à la même période, mais à quelques jours d'intervall : celle du quartier Bondé et celle du quartier Gnoumou. Ce samedi, c'est à l'initiation des jeunes du quartier Gnoumou que nous avons assisté.
C'est une cérémonie permettant aux jeunes gens de passer à l'age adulte. La tranche d'age cette année était comprise entre 15 et 25 ans. Les jeunes gens initiés cette année l'ont été par leurs aînés de la 10e promotion eux-mêmes, initiés à leur tour en 2003, par leurs aînés de la 9e promotion.
La cérémonie, ce jour-ci se composait par des séances de libations diverses et de danses de masques et d'initiés dans tout le village.
La cérémonie d'initiation est une très grande fête et les ressortissants du village viennent de partout pour y assister. Elle draine également beaucoup de touristes.
Le fait remarquable est que toutes les promotions dont les membres sont encore en vie participent à la cérémonie. Et, chaque promotion fait coudre un vêtement uniforme pour la circonstance et participe à la danse.
Kathy en était très heureuse et s'est dite très chanceuse d'être là, et d'assister à une cérémonie qui se déroule tous les sept ans !
Photo: Christopher Roy
Book Review: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
How can privileged women best help women who suffer some of the worst forms of oppression?
By Kathleen Sheldon
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn have received much positive feedback for Half the Sky, their study of women's oppression around the world. Though their title suggests an international focus, what they put forward is more bifurcated. The oppressed women are primarily based in what used to be called the Third World, and their oppression is most memorably a particular kind of physical suffering, such as sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, rape and "honor" killings in the wars in the Congo, Darfur, and Iraq, and the prevalence of fistula and childbirth-related mortality in Africa. The authors also discuss micro-financing, education, and attitudes toward women in Islam, but those sections are not the heart of the book. The structure of the book fosters a problematic division, as they present a series of situations where women suffer because they are women, and each story is paired with an account of assistance, most of which feature women from the First World - usually white, well-to-do, and deeply concerned about women - developing a project, raising funds, or otherwise making a connection with impoverished women in distant lands.
I have a lot of concerns about the way the stories are presented, but I find that it is extremely difficult to write about those concerns without sounding like I am taking a politically correct stance to critique a lot of important and often effective work being done to improve women's lives. So I want to make it clear right at the beginning that I am not opposed to the charitable work that is being done by so many good people....
What I missed throughout the book was an understanding of the wider context of women's oppression. The idea of patriarchy - or patriarchies - was absent. I was also concerned by the absence of stories of women's oppression in North America and Europe. The authors dismiss this factor in the introduction, writing that "discrimination in wealthy countries is often a matter of unequal pay or underfunded sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss" (p. xv). Certainly conditions are much worse in the poor nations of the world, but I felt their statement was very cavalier in dismissing the real (and yes, at times lethal) oppression that western women face.
The organization of the book allows a North American woman to hold onto her own ideas of privilege and to choose a project (from the list helpfully found at the back of the book) to which she could donate funds and assuage her guilt for living the good life. I am not entirely critical of these actions. ...But the book contains internal contradictions about the role of women in the world and about the best way forward to ending some of the worst abuses. Although they list groups that have important projects, in the text they usually profile the individual woman (and occasional man or child) who founded the organization, intensifying an impression of individual rather than collective effort. They highlight those they call "social entrepreneurs," people who take the initiative to develop programs that target needy and oppressed people.
A major problem is the way that Kristof and WuDunn position legal improvements in opposition to the kind of direct support for change that they document. They specifically argue against working to change laws, and say that instead activists should be working to change reality....
In the short term it is important to donate money and time to projects that will help individual women enjoy improvements in their living situations. Kristof and WuDunn argue that such projects are the basis for long term economic and social change, that the best way to bring about change is through supporting social entrepreneurial efforts. I believe that is a limited approach, and that we must have a broader vision of deep-seated social change which involves not only changing laws but changing politics....
It is ironic that Kristof and WuDunn have chosen "Half the Sky" as their title. Taken from the slogan, "Women hold up half the sky" (cited as a Chinese proverb at the beginning of the book), it was popularized by Mao Zedong as part of the Chinese Communist effort to effect grand changes in Chinese society, to undercut traditional and legal restrictions on women, and to address some of the structural issues that contributed to women's oppression. While the Chinese experiment in socialism was obviously deeply flawed and is not a model for the rest of the world, even Kristof and WuDunn admit that Chinese women have experienced the most rapid and far-reaching improvements in their lives in the past century (pp. 206-211). Those changes were not due to programs funded by "social entrepreneurs," but were the result of a comprehensive revolution that involved sweeping changes in women's legal rights, economic opportunities, and social expectations.
Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)
Kathleen Sheldon is an independent historian who has published on African women's history. She has a research affiliation with UCLA Center for the Study of Women, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity. Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink.I wonder if an editor reminded
That is why and how it liberates. Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted. And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
What an excellent message on the stamp. Some very nice Ahmadiyya followers in San Jose donated books to the Ghana libraries... the goodness that begins one place comes back to that place, in time.
*Full disclosure:I used MSPaint...
Oh, why the snarky title? Because I think if you had been a big reader in your African village community library, you would never have written a sentence like that, so appreciators of good writing, donate now, and spare us from a future of: "The $2/day and $3/day thresholds are exactly twice and three times the $1/day line."
PS: Blattman has a good discussion and link to the paper and link to Ravallion on some of the many substantive data quality and inference issues.
An oil purse is a curse, of course? Published February 2, 2010 This post is by Adam Martin, a post-doctoral fellow at DRI.
In development economics everyone knows that natural resources are a curse. A well-known study by Sachs and Warner found a negative correlation between resource abundance and growth rates, while subsequent studies have shown a negative relationship with democracy. The Curse enjoys wide appeal. Aid skeptics like that it implicates oppressive domestic government and nationalized industries. Aid supporters are drawn to its emphasis on geography (destiny!) and the indictment of global markets. And on the popular level, no one makes a better villain than oil companies. But popularity doesn't stop the story from being hot, flat, and wrong.
New research argues that empirical work on the Curse suffers from two interrelated problems. First, it uses dependence (the share of GDP from that resource) and calls it abundance (the stock of a resource in the ground). But dependence in turn depends on institutional quality--if you have sound institutions, natural resources take their place along other industries. If not, natural resources will by default constitute a large share of GDP because poor institutions stifle an advanced division of labor. When you look at cross-sectional data using dependence as a proxy for abundance, it will look like natural resources compromise institutional quality.
To read more see link above...
Wanthchekon and Nathan Nunn have a paper arguing that low levels of trust in African societies are a legacy of the slave trade. Since the data is all variation across regions in Africa, the argument is about the intensity of the slave trade. But from my reading long ago on the slave trade, it seems to me that the nature of slave taking varied too (the sex ratios, age profiles, mechanisms for slave acquisition). Plus the numbers (10-20 million people taken) don't add up to much on a per square kilometer basis... maybe 1 person per year captured for the cross-oceanic slave trade... compared with probably 10 people per sq. kilometer dying from communicable diseases, childbirth, etc. And while Nunn and Wantchekon argue that in many anecdotes there are reports of neighbors "tricking" neighbors into slavery, it much have been just as likely that neighbors were banding together against raiders... and that people saved strangers from slavery, just as they would resist anywhere. But the correlation (between numbers taken and low trust levels) remains... and a hard think to explain away as coincidence.