The Woman Effect

I wasn’t actually sure how to relate this year’s Blog Action Day topic to gaming in a way that didn’t belittle the topic’s seriousness or complexity. The topic is poverty. Poverty is such a huge, complex mess of inter-related issues. Gaming and entertainment seem trivial compared to very basic security needs such as food, shelter, freedom from violence, and access to health care. As gamers know, this medium can be very compelling, and if applied correctly games can be a force for education, which can (eventually) spark real change. I did some research and I found several games that aim to educate people, typically children, about poverty. You can check out a selection of these games at Games for Change – Poverty.

As I continued to research issues that relate to poverty, and there are so many, I came across a video called The Girl Effect:

The Girl Effect initiative seeks to address poverty by focusing on adolescent girls as change agents. Their reasoning is that if we provide opportunities and empower girls, it will benefit society as a whole. I did a bit of research into the company that produced this video, and it turns out that the Nike Foundation is responsible for the Girl Effect initiative. It’s pretty ironic, because Nike is well-known for their reprehensible labour practices. Having said that, it’s good that Nike are highlighting the oppression of women.

Poverty disproportionately affects women:

70 per cent of the world’s poor are women. The majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women.

According to the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, women living in poverty are often denied access to critical resources such as credit, land and inheritance. Their labour goes unrewarded and unrecognized. Their health care and nutritional needs are not given priority, they lack sufficient access to education and support services, and their participation in decision-making at home and in the community are minimal. Caught in the cycle of poverty, women lack access to resources and services to change their situation

The Girl Effect’s initiatives are probably quite effective for the girls directly aided through their page at Global Giving. I could donate there to fund educational programmes for girls in India or Kenya, however there are wider social and legal structures that continue to perpetuate harmful social institutions that oppress women. The video and their approach to the issues seem a little overly simplistic, though their intentions are good.

I think that political advocacy is also a powerful way to effect meaningful structural change change and bring about conditions that will make it easier for girls and women to obtain the rights they deserve. I try to speak out and try to effect change in my own way when I encounter gender issues in my daily life. However I think can do more on the political advocacy side. I’m already a member of quite a few mailing lists that inform and alert me whenever an issue I care about needs lawmakers’ attention, and I do take action if it’s concerning an issue I feel strongly enough about. Oddly enough I don’t belong to any groups that advocate specifically for gender equality. To address this, I am going to do more to educate myself on gender equality political advocacy, and take action when issues arise, just as I do with other types of political advocacy. I’m starting with Equality Now.

  2 comments for “The Woman Effect

  1. 16 October 2008 at 09:42

    Interesting thought. Now let me put this in perspective.

    Let’s say this happens in Africa. Somalia to be exact. I have seen firsthand what they will do with any form of humanitarian aid.

    We give the girl a cow, she tried to make a difference, and as soon as we aren’t around, the local warlord steals the cow, rapes the girl, and either kills her or leaves her with child and most likely AIDS. Because we gave her the cow she now has something that the warlord wants. And to bring her back in line and as a sign to others.

    When I spent a few weeks in Somalia I watched attacks being made on groups giving food and medicines to people that needed them. They would come in, shoot a few people (careful not to shoot the UN folks, because that would have meant troop retaliation), and then take what they wanted. They would often execute people as an example, to maintain fear.

    The only way to insure something like this doesn’t go down would be to invade the country, take over the government, establish a new one, and make the situation safe for the girl (or anyone) to live their lives in peace long enough to make a difference. And we see how well we are able to do this, aren’t we?

    While I appreciate what they are trying to say here, I don’t think that people out there get how difficult it really is for anyone (males or females) in 3rd World countries. If you are not in power, you are worthless. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, to those in power, you simply do not matter.

    Nike would do better moving the girl to a better place, setting her up with an education, and establishing a new society where men could be trained to respect females, and the women could have equality. This would cost to much, and cow is much cheaper.

    There’s a BBQ at the warlord’s headquarters tonight. Hamburgers. Lots and lots of hamburgers.

  2. 16 October 2008 at 22:40

    Thanks for your insight, Gunch. I knew I wasn’t just being cynical for thinking that grassroots donations, while great, don’t do much to solve the overarching problems of oppression. When you think of how complex poverty is, it’s really difficult to think that people can just outright eliminate it as all those those campaigns aim to do.

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