In front of a crowd overflowing into the hallways of the UN, Her Honor, Mrs. Wina Inonge, Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, showcased the Girls’ Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods (GEWEL) Program to the 62nd UN Commission on the Status of Women.
“I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I want to help people like the doctor at the hospital who helped my mother” said the little eight-year old girl, full of confidence. She was one of about 50 children attending a primary school in Tahtay Adiabo Woreda in Tigray. The little girl was talking to a World Bank team visiting the area and the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP).
On a beautiful fall afternoon in 2017, I visited a “female only” village in Telkouk locality, Kassala State, Sudan. There, a woman dressed in blue caught my attention. We were wearing the same color that day, and I soon found that she and I shared a few other things in common.
To celebrate World Environment Day, hundreds of Freetonians came together to plant a tree in honor of the more than 1,000 people killed and missing after devastating landslides and floods tore through Freetown less than a year ago. The landslide and flood waters ripped through the capital city with tremendous energy, destroying everything in its path. It was reported that a huge wave of boulders, building debris and mud cascaded down the river channel immediately after the landslide. The disaster affected more than 6,000 people and caused significant destruction and damage to critical infrastructure.
Do good intentions matter if they end up contributing to harm?
In 15 years of working in international development, I have asked myself this question many times, and the answer is always complicated. I learned working on the Uganda Development Responses to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) that even the most straightforward interventions – building a school, for example – can contribute to unintended consequences if they are not well thought-through. As Dr. Robert Limlim, DRDIP’s director, put it: “You build a school and it does not cause harm, but this school is built under social contradictions that impede equal access to education for boys and girls. If we want to transform social dynamics, doing good is not enough, we need to systematically address Gender Based Violence (GBV) in development responses to forced displacement.”
According to World Bank data, 80% of global GDP is derived from urban centers. It is therefore clear that currently, cities play a key role in development.
A few years ago, when we visited Ségou, the regional capital and administrative center of the Cercle de Ségou, composed of 30 communes and located 240 kilometers from Bamako, we were able to witness a perfect illustration of the paradox of Malian cities, discussed at the 2018 Bamako Forum—although they are expanding rapidly, the economic growth potential offered by an urban area is not being realized in many Malian cities. This paradox is attributable to inadequate urban planning, which hampers the ability of the commune to be functional, economically inclusive, safe, and resilient.
Malawi, a small country in Africa, has a population of over 18 million. According to World Bank estimates, Malawi had 52.2% of the total population between 15 and 64 years as of the beginning of 2017. However, Malawi has a high level of unemployment among the productive population which is largely composed of young people.
In December 2017, Josephine Karungi, a renowned TV host, invited me to share my story as a domestic violence survivor on her show “Perspectives with Josephine Karungi.” To say I was scared beyond my wits would be an understatement, and yet I still gladly wore my orange dress and boldly roared.
In 2018, Madagascar is said to be one of the poorest countries in the world. Antananarivo is said to be the third dirtiest capital. Some diseases like the plague persist in the country, even in 2017. Moreover, more than 35% of adult Malagasy people are still illiterate. One can witness corruption on every level. Every morning, a new political scandal can be read through newspapers’ headlines.
It all began with young girls, later, to be women grew up with no, or little rights, no voice and no choice, even to choose who to marry. On the other hand, men and boys were considered born with divine supremacy over women. Only men could think and act right, and they enjoyed total influence over the women in their households and sometimes outside them. A man’s power over women was absolute, omnipresent and unquestionable and our patriarchal society trained women to accept and live with it. Otherwise it was a taboo.