Not a Gradual Decline in Arrogance Then

This.  Is like a lightning rod for all my fury and frustration with development work.  I’ve waited a few days before responding… um, ranting.  One voice in my head, I don’t listen to her much these days, says simmer down, missy, they’re trying to do the right thing here.  Then the other voice, the one I’m just starting to fully unleash, says right thing? Who’s idea of the right thing is this? This is just another billion-dollar development boondoggle!  So I’ve waited, seeing which voice would hold sway.  You know which one won out, because two days later I’m still left with unedited annoyance:

  • “Ancient practices” are proving “remarkably tenacious”.  Duh.  Maybe that’s why they’re ancient. Maybe? So you thought that with a little bit of conversational prodding, with enough visits by sassy but thoughtful western women, they’d all just see the light and abandon their ancient practice en masse?
  • “The Unicef report also found that while the practice is sometimes seen as a patriarchal effort to control women’s sexuality, it is often women who carry it out, and in a few countries, more men than women support its abandonment.”  So it’s not just a patriarchal imposition then; the reality is more nuanced than that?  It’s the same mistake we made with HIV/AIDS, underestimating the role that matriarchs play in imposing status quo. We’re so busy pushing our “women rule” worldview that we miss out the generational dynamics.
  • “What you think as an individual is not enough to put an end to the practice because of social pressures and obligations.” Wait, I’m having flashbacks. It could be 1997.  Zimbabwe.  HIV/AIDS.  Yet we continue to pour billions into “awareness raising”.  This time about the dangers of FGM.  What have we learned?
  • Unicef found that the steepest declines in the prevalence of the practice, have occurred …. most surprisingly in the Central African Republic. The country has received no significant foreign aid to combat the practice that Unicef researchers knew of, and it has been the subject of no scholarly study that they could find.  Wait, what?  You mean social change can happen in Africa without foreign aid pushing it and foreign academics analyzing it?  Go figure.


OK, I feel better now.  I am, of course, not an apologist for FGM.  It’s despicable.  But to watch yet another supply side social change effort being pushed on Africa because we’ve decided to MAKE FGM HISTORY saddens me.  Anyway, all those UNICEF officials and US academics feel awfully good about themselves for their efforts.

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