The Global North Does Not Always Know Best

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Women’s Human Rights: It’s About Time!” By Rita Arditti discuss the progression of activism in the United Nations to include women in their talks of human rights. As brought up in class, we must fully know the details of something or we risk doing more harm than good. The case of Amina Lawal and the petitions that were circulated show that, with misinformation, we could potentially damage the credibility of organizations we are trying to help as well as encouraging racism and discrimination for a group of people (in this case the people of the Islamic faith).  These petitions, also brought up in class, also have the possibility of backing the Nigerian government in a corner and become hostile because they feel the Western World is telling them what to do. All of this brings negative effects that none of the signers had intended.

This idea of a good intention going bad reminds me of discussions I’ve had in other women studies classes. Particularly that of not every women’s experiences are the same and we cannot assume, here in the “Developed World”, that we know best. Instead of assuming what WE think is the greatest course of action or even what issues are most important, we need to talk to the women and groups that are dealing with that problem firsthand.

An example is the fact that in Africa, western groups seem obsessed with mosquito nets. They are important and recipients are grateful for them. However, it is becoming more and more that they have plenty of them and they would rather have fresh drinking water, a safe place to live, and access to education. If we would stop and talk to the organizations in these countries we can find out what issues women want help with. This groundwork can ensure that the real problems are being addressed as well as in an effective manner. As a whole, the Global North needs to stop assuming we know what is best and instead ask the groups that are in those situations firsthand how we may help. The Global South is their own people with their own experiences and knowledge. They also appreciate any assistance we can give them so we should utilize every moment we can and work together instead of dictating what we feel is the best course of action.

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