What is happening to Donor Support for Women’s Rights?: Response to Rosalind Eyben

For those of you as outraged as I was by Nike’s girl effect campaign, and its emotive simplistic message to invest in girls , the good news is that there are at least two Youtube take offs that reveal in equally slick ways the real message of the campaign: The Girl Effect Parody: “The Idiot Effect” and the Boy Effect. Both made me laugh and think there is some creative resistance out there to the marketing/exploiting of gender and development issues by the corporate world.

It did make me pause though, when I saw that the number of views for ‘the girl effect’ and its take offs were in the 100,000s whereas ‘The photoshop effect’ a video that ‘revealed’ surprise, surprise that photos of movie stars were 99.9% photoshopped had 7 million plus views. And we still don’t get even close to Lady Gaga’s billion views.

Clearly issues of girls and poverty are down there on the Youtube ratings, and for the 2.0 generation, precisely the audience, I would have thought, who need to be part of a conversation for social transformation.

Indeed, for me, engaging the 2.0 generation is the real issue, not so much putting (back) women’s rights, or human rights in general on the donor and the aid agencies’ agendas. We need to get this conversation and its demands moving among and by this generation. This is the generation who are creating new cyber worlds (and realities), and who, as ‘the boy effect’ Youtube (sort of take off) suggests, are being dominated by the messy narrow minded vision of the geeks, like Mark Zuckberg the creator of Facebook.

How do we bring the vision of UN Women into the 2.0 world without it being forced down the Nike corporate line?

To begin with we need to take seriously the complexity of the issues we are dealing with, including the world of cyberspace, who is dominating and who is creating it. So we communicate our world’s complexity according to where we are situated. That means engaging with very different realities of what rights and gender equality means according to which women, girls, men and boys are engaging with ‘development’ discourses. The digital age means we can bring to the fore new thinking, new images set by the 2.0 generation themselves. That is the challenge to listen and learn from what girls are saying, how they are saying and where theyare saying it.

UN Women just announced that it has elected 41 board members: 10 from Africa, 10 from Asia, 4 from Eastern Europe, 6 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 5 from Western Europe and 6 (Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, United Kingdom and United States) from contributing countries. The question here will be how to work with the different realities of girls and women in these countries, to build on their different values and complex ‘messages’. Most of all the challenge is how to build on the vision of the multi-generational feminist movements in those countries. It is the historical action of feminists over at least 30 years which have made UN Women happen. How to keep up with the concerns of those feminists movements, those women and girls, boys and men cannot be captured in the measuring of ‘evidence based’ and log frame ‘result’ demands of today’s aid industry. We have to be bold enough to reject the current dull saga of fulfilling the MDG goals and (because they are not unrelated) denounce the pinkwash of Nike. We need creative, complex analysis that leads to transformation in multiple ways that borrow from the future.

Wendy Harcourt

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One Response to “What is happening to Donor Support for Women’s Rights?: Response to Rosalind Eyben”

  1. Posted by Deborah Eade on March 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    My daughter posted one of the GE video links on FB. She had just turned 18, which I assume is around the target audience for these videos - they obviously aren’t aimed at middle-aged people who have already had a lifetime’s involvement whether in the development industry and/or in the women’s movement.

    She was the first to say she felt the message was a bit simplistic and had sent in some feedback. So if the target audience is not swallowing it uncritically but engaging with and discussing issues they might otherwise have waited for years to tumble to, or never done so, isn’t that a good thing?

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