Activism

Happy International Women’s Day! Today we celebrate the successes of half the population in their efforts to achieve equality. In the UK and Europe women have come a long way, but there’s still far to go, particularly in ending violence against women and closing the pay gap. In other parts of the world women face discrimination and violence on varying levels, and in my own Malaysia I’ve been at the receiving end of this in various ways; thankfully nowhere near as terrible as what some others have experienced, but upsetting nonetheless, and very telling of prevailing attitudes. I believe the way to achieve change is from everyday activism – standing up for ourselves, respecting ourselves and each other, educating future generations as well as those around us, and above all refusing to believe that anyone can tell us what we should do,how we should look, or what we deserve, just because we are women.

This week there’s been another campaign that’s exploded on the internet, particularly across social media. There’s been a lot going on about Kony2012 and the non-profit group Invisible Children. I’m one of those that agrees with the idea of raising awareness of Joseph Kony and his atrocities, bearing in mind that many, many children across the world have suffered as child soldiers in various conflicts. However, I don’t agree with the methods and other aims of the Invisible Children organisation itself. There has been criticism of the organisation, such as here and here, however it is best summed up on the blog Visible Children. Main points include:

The way it spends its funds; last year spending 32% on direct services and a much larger amount on salaries, travel, and film making.
To be fair, their aim is to raise awareness of the situation, so film and merchandise production is going to be a bulk of the expenses, however they also claim to stop Kony, whatever it takes. How’s that being funded then? And on that note, what exactly does “whatever it takes” mean?

Its support of direct military action, namely of the Ugandan government army and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, both of which have been accused of rape and plundering resources
I guess this is what it takes, in Invisible Children’s opinion. What concerns me though, is that this bit doesn’t get much mention in the video, their main awareness tool at the moment.

Its lack of transparency, and exaggeration and manipulation of facts in raising awareness of the campaign issues
All charities play the emotion card and guilt you into supporting their cause, but transparency is a different issue. As above, I feel if you don’t inform your supporters that part of their funding goes towards supporting military action, then I can’t really take anything else at face value.

The blog also links to Invisible Children’s responses to the criticism.

The information for and against Invisible Children and its methods are equally compelling to me. I don’t doubt that Invisible Children’s founders have sincere intentions, nor do I wish to criticise those who want to help, but I do believe in finding out more about what you’re putting your name against, especially when you contribute funds to them. Having considered the various points raised, I’m still not sure where I stand on this. I agree with the cause, but not with the methods, so for now I hope to do my part in raising awareness of the information available before one decides whether or not to support this cause.

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