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Keeping The Humanity in Development

Written By: Lori Adelman
December 8, 2010

 

I was grateful for the interesting perspective presented by Zimbabwean poet and graduate student Fungai Machirori in a comment this week for Pambazuka News about the complicated nature of global development. Machirori calls for a more nuanced take on development, and points out the need for participation of local women in all areas of decision-making. She calls for greater recognition of the fact that sometimes global actions could benefit from incorporating a greater diversity of voices and viewpoints, especially those that development is meant to benefit.

She also emphasizes that there are real people behind the development issues so often discussed and debated, reminding us that jargon is no substitute for effective interventions: while rhetoric from afar can be useful, it won’t ensure that a doctor respects the woman patient sitting in front of him, put food on the table of a family on the brink of poverty, or save a woman from a preventable maternal death. Machirori writes:

“Globalised actions forget that cultural, social, economic and geopolitical factors are key to defining and addressing development issues. They disregard the fact that ‘third world’ people do not speak the same language, live in the same environment or appreciate development in the same ways. They forget the faces behind the figures, the underlying issues that impede progress.”

She goes on:

“But most importantly, we have to realise that when we talk gender and development, we are talking about human beings – not theoretical or hypothetical beings, but real women and men for whom our efforts are often the difference between life and death. Let’s talk to each other, not at one another and bring the discourse out of the clouds and back down to the ground.”

You can read the whole piece at Pambazuka News here, which I highly recommend. Machirori’s perspective is a much-needed one, and one that is critical to discourse around development, policy, funding, and global health.

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