Saturday, April 14, 2018

Thoughts on cultural sensitivity

What does culturally sensitive charity work look like? 

Firstly, on reflection of what I do, I'm not sure I like the word charity. It conjures up   images of 'doing something to or for' another group... I would prefer to consider what I am involved in as a partnership. 'Walking with' my like minded friends on a significant journey, one that aims to provide resources and hold out a hand to others who may be struggling.

So the question on culturally sensitive work for arises when I think about embarking on this journey on another cultures soil. I recognize that I am coming into their space, and in doing that, I am at risk of influencing this space with my values and presence.

So how do I do this in a culturally sensitive way? I remind myself frequently that I am a member of a powerful part of the global community, and the power attributed to me because I am white, educated, rich, and from a democratic society, means I have the power to influence.. but that's not what I want to do, I want to offer my capacity, as a peer and friend, to the cause for change that is meaningful and desired by this community.

I am so lucky to have found local friends, in the NGO ODAM , with whom I share similar values. We gave developed a relationship where i believe we bounce ideas off each other. I  bring my limited experience in community development, and my lifetime of Englisher and working with stakeholders. My partners bring their intimate knowledge of the life of the women of south India. They know the political and economic environment we are are working in, they know what wont work and what might work.

I think whats most important in culturally sensitive aid work is to remember I am not an expert here, i am a student. In my work, i bring ideas, i ask questions, and i participate in conversations equally.

Prior to coming to India my friend & i had this idea for a Fairtrade business but I was concerned we had not developed these ideas in a true collaboration  with our friends here in India. So in our first meeting, a very long day of discussions, my friend and I prepared ourselves to frame our idea in a way that allowed, even encouraged, debate and change. To our great surprise, and excitement, our idea fitted exactly what our partners in India wanted to do.. we were on the right track.

The past 10 days have been exciting and eye opening, as we've embarked on a partnership in this business venture. But this comes with nervousness and concern.... we hope we can make it work, and the promise of employment for these rural women will be realized.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Letter from India

Dear Friends and family
My travelling companion Chris and I are now comfortably settling into our room and local community, in a small town near the girls school and hostel. Its  very hot here, an unrelenting 40+degrees.

Yesterday we had an all day meeting with directors of ODAM learning about recent developments, changes in government policies and regulations, and new developments occurring in this region impacting on rural women and girls poverty and empowerment. It's xciting to see that over the past 11 years of our visiting,  many things have come along way forward, still many things appear the same.

It appears that the government is now taking more responsibility for ensuring girls get a complete education through to year 12, and we are hearing about a transition period where NGO's are no longer needing to provide the education support for these girls. ODAM remains very passionate about ensuring safe and appropriate hostel care for girls, and continue to manage their hostel for both high school and tertiary students for now.

Chris at the girls hostel in 2013

We have been delighted to hear that some of 'our girls' have completed science, art and engineering degrees, and some are near completion of their nursing degrees. We have more questions to ask about their transition into meaningful employment as it seems some are not working in their fields yet (not unlike our Australian graduates experiences).

We had very productive talks yesterday about the fair trade business idea, and we feel we have alot of work to do while we're here to support ODAM to develop the proposal further. I'll write more about that soon.

Thanks for all your support over the years, its just delightful to seem what our investments have achieved here.